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Next Hall fire chief likely to be one of these 3 finalists

The search for Hall County’s next fire chief has been narrowed down to three finalists, with an announcement about a final decision expected by Sept. 7.

The finalists are Chris Armstrong, fire chief for Littleton, Colo., Byron Dixon, fire captain for Arlington County, Va. and Charles Wells, retired deputy fire chief for Gwinnett County. About 50 people applied for the position, which has been vacant since October.

Earlier this month, the pool was narrowed to six finalists, who interviewed in person.

"These candidates were selected as finalists due to their experience and their clear, innovative ideas for moving Hall County Fire Services forward in a way that provides the highest level of service to Hall County citizens," Hall County Administrator Jock Connell said in a statement.

The job opening was posted in June after county administrators spent several months evaluating the department.

Jeff Hood, the former fire chief, resigned in October. Former Deputy Fire Chief Mark Arnold has been serving as interim fire chief since then.

The county’s fire department has seen several staffing changes in recent years. In August 2014, then-Fire Chief David Kimbrell was relieved of command over fire services after an accident with a fire truck that injured three firefighters. Kimbrell then became Emergency Management Agency director, and Hood became fire chief.

A report that surfaced earlier this year showed issues in the department in April 2016, when Hood reported to the county sheriff’s office that someone was spying on him. Former arson investigator Lt. Dax Lewis later said he had made up the story.

Then, in October 2017, Kimbrell was dismissed from his position with the Emergency Management Agency after an illicit video of him with a fire department employee was found. Hood resigned as fire chief at about that time.

An announcement about the chosen candidate is expected in early September. Connell said the finalists will now be further vetted for the position.

"We will continue to internally review and evaluate these final three candidates, ensuring they are thoroughly vetted for the position," Connell said. "I can assure you that we will hire someone with the abilities, character, integrity, values and leadership that will guide this organization in a positive and productive direction."