Fresno Fire emerging from ashes of Dern injury, recession

In the midst of a rebuilding, Fresno’s fire department is refocusing on firefighter safety after Captain Pete Dern’s devastating injury.




“The one constant we can rely on is change,” Donis said in her letter to the Fire Department family.

Let’s take a closer look at some of that change in 2015. The department:

· Hired 13 lateral firefighters (“lateral” means they came here from other fire departments).

· Opened a new truck company, giving Fresno its second two-company station (engine and ladder-truck).

· Saw minimum daily staffing rise from 70 to 73 firefighters.

·  Implemented a plan to replace the entire fleet, including engines and trucks, within eight years.

·  Hosted a high-rise fire drill, the first since 2006.

·  Got council approval for a wellness program for department members.

·  Bought more property so Station 18 (west of Highway 99) can eventually have a one-story permanent home.

·  Held the department’s first entry-level firefighter exam since 2007.

·  Started the bureaucratic ball rolling for either a brand new fire shop (repairs, etc.) or a modernized fire shop.

To me (an admitted outsider), one of the department’s most impressive feats in 2015 was its work with other city departments during the Summerset Village Apartments crisis in November.

The city’s emergency manager for a while was a civilian located in the City Manager’s Office. Then the position got moved back to Fire. Lots of City Hall and community leaders helped fix the Summerset problem in a hurry. I saw the Fire Department in the thick of things from the beginning.

Donis in her letter also lists the organizational changes approved by the City Council on Dec. 17. The additions are:

·  $200,000 for training.

·  1 deputy chief.

·  2 captains.

·  1 firefighter specialist.

·  1 firefighter.

·  3 battalion chiefs.

·  1 senior storekeeper for personal protective equipment.

“We were blessed when Pete courageously walked out of that hospital and is recovering each day,” Donis wrote in her department letter. “The solid character of our membership as a whole rallied together on many levels, for each other, and for Pete and his family.

“From this incident the forthcoming SART report will frame our organizational improvement opportunities, allowing us to take steps forward to be a safer, healthier and better equipped fire department.”

1 comment
  1. I’ve followed the Pete Dern event from day one as I’ve a relative who is also a Fresno Fire Fighter and this came close to home, even though I live over 200 miles away. I have to commend Chief Kerri Donis for her willingness to accept criticism and see it as opportunity. As a tax payer and former government employee I can appreciate BOTH sides of the “coin” and also the emotional issues. However, I agree with the Chief’s vision – training is THE KEY in all things. If you tuck your knuckles under while holding the onion and learn to slice it in that manner over and over eventually you will have a sliced onion in seconds and not minutes (I’ve never learned to do so, but then agin I never attended Culinary School nor have I practiced repeatedly – so now when I slice onions I cry) AND here is the “KEY”- application, physically doing the training, is essential, time consuming, and costly. If NOT done properly we all end up crying. I hope ALL Fire Chief’s across our Nation ask for Fresno’s SART Report. I’ll be asking my local Fire Chief’s to request it – I used to believe the Police/Sheriff/Marshal departments kept me safe, however EVERY incident where I’ve needed help immediately, it’s been the Fire Department that arrived FIRST. I want all my fire department personnel’s safety FIRST – Maybe I’m just selfish!

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