Fire Warden Dale Skiles is retiring from county service in a continuing shakeup in top fire agency positions in Stanislaus County.
Skiles, 51, notified county leaders a few weeks ago of his decision to retire effective Dec. 31. The county has been recruiting for a new fire warden, offering a salary ranging up to $142,600 a year.
Skiles’ retirement follows a yearlong tempest in the Salida Fire Protection District, where he has served as part-time chief. Some have questioned a Salida board decision in April giving lifetime medical benefits to Skiles; other issues included the cost of station renovations and efforts to unionize firefighters.
Top county officials decided to end the shared management agreement with Salida, saying they wanted Skiles to devote his energies to county responsibilities. In August, the Salida fire district board accepted the county’s termination letter, which gave the district until year’s end to find a new chief.
County Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes said Skiles’ departure has nothing to do with the controversy in Salida.
“He was kicking around dates for retirement,” said Hayes, who recently was promoted to county CEO. Hayes said Skiles talked about his retirement options when the new CEO had initial conversations with senior leaders in August.
According to Hayes, Skiles decided his last day would be Dec. 29 after the county terminated the agreement with Salida. “Once he finalized the date, Dale and I met with (county Office of Emergency Services) staff Oct. 16 to let them know,” Hayes said.
Skiles did not return messages from The Modesto Bee on Friday.
Last week, Stanislaus Consolidated Chief Rick Weigele apparently was pushed out by the fire district’s board. Mike Hillar, the chief of Modesto’s Burbank-Paradise Fire District for seven years, was fired in July.
The Salida Fire Protection District board voted Tuesday to hire Vernon Losh of Healdsburg as interim chief. Losh is a former Sonoma County fire chief who retired from that position in 2008.
Skiles was Salida’s fire chief starting in 2002 and went to work for the Modesto Regional Fire Authority when Salida, Modesto and the county formed the regional agency in 2011.
Skiles transitioned to the county and was appointed fire warden in August 2013 while retaining his role as Salida’s part-time chief. The fire warden’s office, Salida and Modesto Fire Department returned to independent status when MRFA was dissolved in June 2014.
As assistant director of emergency services, Skiles managed a drought-relief program created in 2015 that provided a temporary water supply for homes with dry wells. He was responsible for developing and maintaining emergency preparedness plans for the county and its nine cities.
Hayes said the county hopes to have a good pool of applicants for the fire warden post. “Dale has 30-plus years in the fire service and that is hard to replace,” Hayes said.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16