Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 • City begins search for new fire chief

Fire Chief Stu Rainer shows off some of the fire department’s tools when local children make a visit to the fire house.

As of the first of the year, the city of Susanville has begun the process of filling the shoes of former Susanville Fire Department Chief, Stu Ratner, and it seems like more than a couple people are interested in the job.

Battalion Chief Ted Friedline will be filling the role as interim fire chief until the Susanville City Council can decide who will fill the position. According to Friedline, anyone looking to apply for the job had to have their applications to the city by Dec. 21. He said as far as he knew, there were 16 applications submitted.

Friedline said even though Ratner is officially retired and gone, his influence remains at the department as it moves forward into the new decade.

“Things are going well,” Friedline said. “We are planning in the short term right now, but we are pushing forward and taking care of business.”

Indeed, the fire department started off the New Year with a flurry of activity, including the large-scale structure fire at the Juniper Arms apartment complex at about 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31. Friedline and his staff are still investigating the cause of the fire, but said because it was determined someone was smoking in the area of origin, smoking hasn’t been ruled out as a cause.

The other major event for the fire department was the addition of the city’s newest fire engine, a ladder truck from the Chico Fire Department. The fire truck, which represents one of Ratner’s final achievements for the department, has already been brought in to the SFD’s service fleet. Friedline said it was Ratner’s negotiation with Chico that helped bring the truck to Susanville, and the department is better for it.

Friedline said the only issue with the SFD fleet now is the storage of the previous ladder truck, also originally purchased from Chico. When the Susanville city council approved the purchase of the truck for a price of $12,000 at its Nov. 18 meeting, councilmember Doug Sayers said he would like to see the previous ladder truck stay as well.

Since then, Friedline and the department have been working with city staff to find a place to keep the truck.

“We have some ideas,” Friedline said. “We’re looking to keep the truck and we’re still looking at a few options for where to place it strategically.”

Friedline was going to present the new fire truck to the city council at its Jan. 6, meeting, but was unable to due to weather.

Making due without Ratner
Despite his busy first week as interim fire chief, Friedline has been able to take his new responsibilities in stride. Friedline, who started with the department 29 years ago, has been part of the paid staff for 23 years, and worked very closely with Ratner in many capacities during his time as battalion chief.

Much of his current work at the department is business as usual. The department recently had three perspective volunteers sit in on its first fire training meeting of the year. Friedline is also helping to set up a multi-agency, county wide training session at the Lassen County Fire Officers Association training facility on Johnstonville Road. He said the first quarter of 2010’s training for the department has also been set.\

As far as moving forward, Friedline said he expects the department to remain as busy as last year, when the department reached a call volume of more than 1,500 calls. The department has been dealing with its usual number of medical calls.

As far as the search for a new fire chief, Friedline is one of the applicants, but he said he would respect any decision the city arrives at.

“I’ve been here a long time, and I’m willing to do whatever I need to. If they want me in another position, I’m happy to go where the city needs me,” said Friedline.

City Administrative Assistant Gwenna MacDonald said the city has until Jan. 15 to narrow down the list of 15 applicants to about five or six. She estimated that it could be up to a couple of months before the process wraps up.