Kirkland Welcomes New Fire Chief

Kirkland's new Fire Chief, J. Kevin Nalder
— image credit: Photo/City of Kirkland

The City of Kirkland announced the March 31 hiring of J. Kevin Nalder as Director of the Fire and Building Department. Currently a Deputy Chief with the Salt Lake City Fire Department, he will replace current Director/Fire Chief Jeff Blake, who is retiring after 12 years at the helm on April 15.

Nadler began his career in 1985 as a firefighter in Utah and gradually worked his way up through the department ranks to achieve his current rank. As Deputy Chief in Salt Lake City, he's been responsible for the management and administration of the Salt Lake City International Airport Fire Operations Divisions, Operations Support Services Bureau (includes management of the Training Division, Apparatus & Equipment Division, Hazardous Materials Unit, Heavy Rescue Unit, and Water Rescue Unit), internationally accredited Fire and EMS Dispatch Center, Technology Division, Fire Prevention Bureau, and the Emergency Preparedness Division. Nalder will start on May 1.

He'll take over the Building and Fire Department from Blake, who plans on spending quality time at Safeco Field in Seattle as a ballpark usher. Over the years, the retiring chief said he helped develop the Fire and Building department into a regional partner that has vastly improved emergency preparedness capabilities and response times. But the Seattle-born Blake, who was Deputy Chief in Redmond and worked there for 22 years before joining Kirkland in 1996, is a big baseball fan.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he said.

The city conducted a national recruitment and hiring process coordinated by Prothman Company, with final interviews in late March attracting applicants from Woodinville to Appleton, Wisc. and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

But it came down to Nadler, whose broad resume was viewed as a strength by the Kirkland City Manager David Ramsay, who made the ultimate decision. Ramsay also cited Nadler's experience working as a Fire Marshal as key to his hiring.

“We were all very impressed with Kevin’s depth of experience and interpersonal skills,” notes Kirkland City Manager Dave Ramsay. “We feel that he will be a great match with our staff and the community.”

Nalder said his first priority is to get to know department personnel, conduct a “listening tour” with City management staff and introduce himself to the Kirkland community. His wife, Lauren and their two children will relocate to the Pacific Northwest in the coming weeks. Nalder’s oldest son recently accepted a position as a Fire Protection Engineer in San Diego and his oldest daughter is attending graduate school at the University of Utah.

“Kirkland is a perfect match for the lifestyle my family and I subscribe to; we are very excited to become members of this outstanding community,” he said.

The new chief will also see an appreciable bump in his salary, going from $95,793 in Salt Lake to $141,120. Ramsay said Nadler's skills and resume deserved the compensation, in addition to the comparatively high cost-of-living compared to Utah and pay-equities within the department.

Nalder notably received a Magna Cum Laude Bachelor of Science in Public Emergency Services Management from Utah Valley University (Orem, UT) in 2006 and completed Paramedic School from Weber State University (Ogden, UT) in 1990. He expects to complete the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy (Emmitsburg, MD) in 2010.

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