Ocean Shores again is searching for a new fire chief, following the resignation of Chief Thomas Lique.
“We wish Tom the best in his new endeavors. The city will be seeking a new Fire Chief over the next few months,” Mayor Crystal Dingler said in a statement.
Lique was hired in June 2014 after serving his entire career prior to that with the Key Peninsula Fire Department. At the time Ocean Shores hired Lique, he had resigned as chief of the Key Peninsula department six months earlier.
Dingler has appointed Fire Capt. Brian J. Ritter as interim assistant fire chief effective Jan. 1, while the search for a new chief takes place.
Ritter was hired into the department in 2004. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2008, then to Captain in 2011. He is the department’s medical services officer in charge of all emergency medical operations and training. In total, Ritter has more than 20 years of experience in the fire service and emergency medicine, and he has proven himself an effective leader.
During the Cascadia Rising emergency exercises earlier this year, Ritter led the Ocean Shores contingent that received additional training by the Army’s on-site trauma surgeon, Dingler noted.
“In addition to his duties for the city, Brian works nationally as a simulation technician, helping develop simulation programs and train medical professionals,” Dingler said. “Brian also has been involved with many fire department community events as well as events outside of the fire department, including hosting the annual Ocean Shores Food Bank Auction and participating in other local charitable events.”
Ritter’s wife of 14 years, Suzy, is a preschool teacher. They have two daughters, Hadley, 12, and Madilyn, 8.
“Please join Mayor Dingler, the City Council, and staff in wishing Brian every success in his new interim position and thank him for his willingness to step in and help guide the department through this period of change,” Dingler said in her statement.
The statement made no mention of Lique, who reportedly had been placed on administrative leave recently due to several absences. He was noticeably absent during the final budget presentations to City Council, and the council was briefed on his employment status recently in an executive session.
Lique also had been suffering from a head injury suffered when he was on a family outing out of town, sources said.
Calls to Lique were not returned Friday or earlier in the month.
He had been credited with bringing in seven new firefighters to the department under a two-year federal SAFER grant program, and last advocated in public for the department during late September budget discussions.