WHITE CITY — Jackson County Fire District No. 3 fired its chief Thursday and is temporarily filling the leadership vacuum until a permanent replacement is hired.

WHITE CITY — Jackson County Fire District No. 3 fired its chief Thursday and is temporarily filling the leadership vacuum until a permanent replacement is hired.

The district's board voted unanimously to terminate the contract of David Hard, nearly two months after he was placed on paid administrative leave.

The board opted to fire Hard without cause, which is possible under his contract, according to board President John Curtis.

"All of this is within (Hard's) contract," Curtis said. "We have decided to move on toward finding another chief as quickly as possible."

The board followed district protocol by naming Operations Chief Greg Winfrey as acting chief until an interim chief is named.

Curtis admitted the search for a new chief could stretch out for several weeks and possibly for months, because there will be a lengthy search process that could include interviewing candidates from out of state.

Curtis did not provide specific information about what led to the decision to fire Hard. Board Vice President Lois Hawley Wilson previously said concerns by district management were voiced during Hard's tenure.

Wilson did say Hard's decision to place another employee on administrative leave during a previous board meeting could have played a part in his eventual termination.

Hard's tenure was marred by internal dysfunction, which prompted the district to hire a consulting agency to determine what caused the problems.

In October 2009, the district was fined $2,500 by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division after an April 25 training exercise that left three firefighters with minor burns.

Emergency Services Consulting Inc. will help the district find an interim chief and could help with the hiring of a permanent replacement, Curtis said.

"Nothing is set in stone yet regarding a new chief," Curtis said.

Hard has been chief since Nov. 30, 2007. He previously worked for Klamath County Fire District No. 1 and Ashland Fire Rescue.

Board member Colin Fagan said the board should move quickly to name a new chief.

"It has been a time of uncertainty and difficulty for everyone involved," Fagan said. "We need to get clear leadership in place and move the district forward."

The district serves much of unincorporated northern Jackson County, including White City, as well as the cities of Eagle Point, Central Point and Gold Hill.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.