SPOKANE, Wash. – The City of Spokane has narrowed a pool of candidates down to five finalists for Spokane’s next fire chief.

The candidates spent Thursday at a public forum answering questions, but before that they spoke with KREM 2’s Lindsay Nadrich.

First, here are the five candidates vying for the position.

  • Helen Ahrens-Byington: She is the current deputy fire chief of operations in Kirkland, Wash.
  • Jason Nicholl: He is the battalion chief for the South Salt Lake Fire Department in Utah.
  • Andy Sannipoli: He is the assistant fire chief of the Durham Fire Department in North Carolina.
  • Tony Nielsen: He is the current fire chief of Spokane County Fire District 8.
  • Brian Schaeffer: He was the assistant fire chief for the Spokane Fire Department and is currently serving as interim chief.

Diversity among fire departments is an issue across the country. We asked how they would address that problem and reach out to all demographics.

Ahrens-Byington: “It’s a challenge nationwide and I’ve really been thinking about it. It can’t be a one person answer it’s got to be department wide.”

Nielsen: “It’s important because the fire department should look like the community it serves and they should be inclusive and welcoming to everybody.”

In regards to what changes or improvements would be needed within the SFD such as response times.

Sannipoli: “I would look at that. Why we haven’t moved on to something that’s closer in line with the national standard and what can move us closer to that target.”

With an internal candidate in the mix, Schaeffer said he is confident he can still bring a new perspective.

“There aren’t any needs to have a change agent come in ad divert us from our direction,” Schaeffer said.

Would he remain with the department if he is not chosen as chief?

“Probably not, I’d likely resign and probably move on.”