Union Gap hires news fire chief - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Union Gap hires news fire chief

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UNION GAP, Wash. -- The City of Union Gap has a new fire chief, and he's already started his position this week.

Chris Jensen replaces Bill Steele, who was let go by Mayor Jim Lemon back in February. The mayor tells KNDO he was opposed to the idea of a regional fire authority, which had been proposed by the former fire chief of two years. The proposal would combine the City of Yakima and Union Gap fire departments into one district with its own taxing authority, according to Lemon.

Jensen comes to Yakima from Paradise, California, where he was the City's building official, fire marshal and fire chief.  He has over 20 years experience in the firefighting service.

"My role in the regional fire authority is to provide facts, data and information," explains Jensen. "This is obviously a policy level decision, in that, the council will make and ultimately the citizens will make, at some point in time, if it gets that far."

Mayor Lemon says the fire authority would benefit the City and the firefighters, but says it would hurt residents and businesses in the form of property taxes. He believes the Union Gap council members voted to move forward with the study in order to avoid making the firefighters upset.

Meanwhile, the City of Yakima has conducted its own study session on the merger, which could take at least six months or longer to complete.

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