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Central Valley Fire District has high hopes for new fire chief after recent high turnover rate

New Fire Chief Jay Wittwer
Central Valley Fire District
Posted at 12:35 PM, Jun 19, 2024

BELGRADE — Good news, Belgrade. After a long search and a rocky history with the position, Central Valley Fire District has hired Jay Wittwer as its new fire chief. But why did this position take so long to fill?

“The chief prior to him was here for about two months. It was a very short period,” says Anthony Stratman, a battalion chief for Central Valley Fire District.

Stratman started out as a volunteer firefighter 14 years ago and has seen how Central Valley’s fire chief situation has changed over the years.

I asked him, “Has the track record with chiefs always been like that?” and he told me, “It hasn't been like that until recently."

Stratman tells me during his time with Central Valley, Ron Lindroth served as fire chief from 2012 to 2021. Almost a decade with a consecutive chief. But after Lindroth, Central Valley has seen three separate fire chiefs since. One being Lonnie Rash, who served as chief for just two short months before he quit in November 2023.

I asked Stratman, “Is that why you took so long to hand pick a new chief?” and he told me, “Yeah. A lot of the firefighters collectively came together and pushed that we take the time to do a thorough search process of finding a good strong candidate. So that we can find someone that’s going to stay for a long time and really help bring this organization forward”.

When asked if he has that hope for Wittwer, Stratman said he does.

On June 1, Wittwer began his new role as fire chief for Central Valley Fire District. I asked how his first few weeks have gone.

“It has been phenomenal. I've met with each of the shifts, each of the crews, and have been very impressed with their commitment to the community and their competence in their craft as firefighters,” says Chief Wittwer.

Chief Wittwer has worked as a firefighter for almost 40 years. He’s worked in various locations such as Las Vegas and the Seattle area. I asked how he plans to navigate moving from larger cities with higher populations to Central Valley Fire District.

He told me, “I've put into practice what is known as a 100-day plan. So my first 100 days, I have a number of things that I want to accomplish. First and foremost are to get to know the people. Most importantly, understand the community and the needs of the community. That's why I've been active getting out into the community.”

As for Stratman and the rest of the Central Valley Fire District Crew? They have high hopes for their new fire chief.

“It’s been great just to see him talking to the crews and getting to know all the members of the organization and really listening to our concerns and the needs that we have, and where we want to see this organization grow to,” says Stratman.

Stratman also says community members should feel free to come to Central Valley Fire District Station 1 anytime to meet Chief Wittwer.