Fire Authority Staff and Elected Board of Commissioners

SWFA uses a full-time administrative staff to manage the functions of the Fire Authority. Our administrative staff includes the Fire Chief, an Assistant Fire Chief, a Division Chief, and 2.3 administrative support personnel. In addition to administrating the functions of the fire department. Chief Officers also rotate as the organization’s Battalion Duty Officer for emergency response coordination and incident command functions.

Mitch Nolze

Fire Chief

Chief Nolze began his fire service career in Maple Valley, WA in 2004 as a volunteer firefighter.  In 2008, he moved to Bellingham and began volunteering with Whatcom County Fire District 2.  Chief Nolze continued volunteering with SWFA and promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief.  Chief Nolze also worked as a fire inspector/investigator for the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office from 2012-2019, when he was hired as the full-time Assistant Fire Chief.  Chief Nolze held the Assistant Chief position, responsible for the operations of the fire authority, through December 2022.  Chief Nolze was appointed as the chief executive officer of SWFA beginning January 2023.

Stephen Mitchell

Assistant Fire Chief

Chief Mitchell is responsible for the operations of the fire authority, as well as being the department’s Health & Safety Officer.  His responsibilities include operational deployment standards of cover; management of all career and volunteer emergency response staff; evaluation and compliance with health and safety standards; and recruitment and hiring.

Tony Melillo

Division Chief of Training

Chief Melillo is responsible for the management of SWFA’s training programs. Training includes fire suppression, EMS, and specialized rescue operations. Training is delivered to new hires via academy training as well as to established team members in the form of ongoing training for skill development and maintenance, and progression training of new skills including officer development. 

Gerri Gilmore

Administrative Assistant

Gerri is responsible for the maintenance of financial reports, payroll, maintenance of employee benefits, and financial disclosure of our annual report to the State Auditor.

Erika Barquist

Office Assistant

Erika is responsible for processing accounts payable; processing public records requests and disclosure; patient medical records and billing, and reception responsibilities.

Jenny Fields

Office Assistant

Jenny works in a part-time position and is responsible for assisting with the record keeping of training activities, new member processing, and medical/drug testing of new and existing members.

SWFA Elected Board of Fire Commissioners

South Whatcom Fire Authority is a municipal corporation formed under the Revised Code of Washington Title 52. The Fire Authority sets boundaries for the purposes of taxing property owners for fire protection services. As a political entity, the Fire Authority has its own elected officials known as fire commissioners. There are five Fire Commissioners which are elected by voters within the boundaries of the Fire Authority for six-year terms. These terms are staggered so 1-2 positions come up for election every two years. The Board sets the organizational vision and culture; determines taxing levels; determines the level of services to be provided; and oversees all other related issues regarding governance of the Fire Authority.




Email contact

Current Term

Position 1

Serving Chuckanut

Brian Martin


Position 2

Serving Lake Samish

James Willson


Position 3

Serving Yew Street Rd.

Reece Williams


Position 4

Serving Sudden Valley

Stefen Paige


Position 5

Serving Geneva

Jim Peeples


Our Mission

Dedicated to maintaining a state of readiness to protect our communities through provision of effective and efficient fire and emergency life safety services.