Levon Yengoyan used to gather his entire fire department most mornings for a daily briefing over a cup of coffee.
“It was easy to make sure everyone was on the same page and everyone could communicate with me,” the new Camano Island Fire and Rescue chief said of his former role as Burlington Fire Chief. “Now, it’s a little more challenging to do that on Camano.”
Yengoyan, 50, started as CIFR chief on May 1, replacing Michael Shick, who resigned and has since been hired as fire chief in Florence, Oregon.
Yengoyan has been spending most of his time so far getting out to meet with CIFR firefighters and staff at the fire district’s five stations that are responsible for responding to emergencies on the 95 square miles of Camano Island, in addition to the surrounding waters.
“I’m sitting with people one-on-one, listening to why they got into fire service and hearing what passions within firefighting they’re interested in,” the new chief said.
But the Camano Island resident isn’t all that new to CIFR.
Yengoyan joined the Burlington Fire Department in June 2016 after spending close to two decades with CIFR — 12 years of which he served as assistant chief. While working in Burlington, he and his family continued to live on Camano.
“Even though I’ve been at CIFR before, I’ve changed, they’ve changed, how we communicate has changed,” he said. “I’m still in an assessment mode.”
By later this year, with public input, Yengoyan and the Board of Fire Commissioners plan to update CIFR’s strategic plan, which might include projects such as upgrading the Mabana station.
“We’ve looked at the strategic plan before, but we didn’t really get into the weeds and look at the details,” Commission Chairman Paul Williams said. “We are looking at a community-driven strategic plan model to learn what the community wants and what they desire.”
Meanwhile, Williams said he and the rest of the commission are pleased with Yengoyan’s effort to get out to meet staff.
“He’s a real people person, he strives to get the best out of individuals,” said Williams, adding that Yengoyan isn’t letting complacency take root and is pushing CIFR forward to become better.
“We’re doing good things here already, but we need to stay proactive,” Yengoyan said. “There are plenty of unique challenges for Camano, too. And we want to learn about barriers and pressing issues out there.”
It’s the same hands-on leadership style he used at TerraLogic GIS, a Stanwood-based consultant of geographic information systems he owned and operated.
“I never thought of becoming a firefighter,” the University of Washington graduate said. “But I signed up to volunteer and fell in love.”
The drawback he said was that he missed running an organization. So, after switching careers and rising to assistant chief, he leapt at the chance to become a fire chief.
“It was a great experience; I learned so much,” he said of his time in Burlington. “I learned a lot about myself, and it strengthened things I already thought to be true, like how the people are the backbone of the operation, and that my job is to support them by giving them the tools to do their job.”
Yengoyan said he and CIFR fire crews plan to be active in local events, with the Camano Island Chamber of Commerce and at other community happenings.
“There’s a lot of involvement in this community,” he said. “And I have an open door policy. So come on in and ask questions.”
See the swearing in ceremony
The Camano Island Fire & Rescue Board of Fire Commissioners will swear in new chief Levon Yengoyan at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 27, at the Vista/Madrona Fire Station, 273 N. West Camano Drive,Camano Island. The public is invited and refreshments will be served.
Meet the new CIFR chief at Mabana
Meet Camano Island Fire & Rescue’s new fire chief, firefighters and volunteers during the Mabana Fire Station Open House, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at 3651 South Camano Drive, Camano Island.
Several speakers are expected: Fire Chief Levon Yengoyan at 10:30 a.m., FireWise representative at 10:55, Sgt. John Nieder on “Home & Personal Safety” at 11:20, Rhonda Paulson and SkyMurphy with “Map Your Neighborhood/CERT” at 1 p.m., and Don Thompson on Amateur Radio Emergency Service at 1:30.
Other activities will include station tours, Kids Fire House, a raffle and a free hot dog lunch. Bring friends or family. For more info, contact Rhonda at firstname.lastname@example.org.