South Lake Tahoe has a new fire chief, one with more than three decades of firefighting experience.
The City Council appointed Jeffrey Meston to the position during Tuesday’s meeting.
Meston replaces interim chief Bruce Martin, who he said he knew from previous firefighting experience.
“He is a friend of mine, and when they did the recruitment, I said, ‘Wow, what a great opportunity,’” Meston said. “I have some great people to work with here. They’re very motivated, and I’m excited to see if I can get things moving a bit in this department.”
Meston has 32 years of experience under his belt, beginning with the Alameda County Fire Department. From there he went to the city of Madera for 10 years and then to the Novato Fire Department in the Bay Area for more than 20 years. He also has prior chief experience at a couple departments.
The new chief retired and moved to the area in 2006. He is a third-generation firefighter: his father was a firefighter for 40 years in Oakland and his grandfather was a firefighter in Cleveland, Ohio.
California had some of its largest wildfires in its history this summer, but Meston said he has a few ways he approaches the inferno season.
“It’s about good public education and letting people know they need to have good defensible space,” Meston said. “It’s also about having a good strong (group) of fire folks. The second thing is operational readiness, the ability for our folks to go out there and handle the situation, try to keep it small when we can.”
Currently, Meston said he is getting to know the other fire chiefs and continues to set up one-on-one interviews with local organizations and ride-along tours to see how those departments operate.
“We’re blessed to have a great group of fire mutual aid firefighting resources,” Meston said. “Mutual aid is huge.”
Meston also said it has not been difficult to motivate his staff so far.
“It’s pretty simple,” he said. “The organization has gone through a lot of change. The people are looking for long-term stability and leadership. So we’re kind of in that mold of rebuilding the organization.”
Meston also said he wants to make sure he has the adequate equipment to be able to train his staff at all times.
He said his department is fairly young, with the most veteran firefighter having 12 years of experience. But he said it’s great to have a young group of people who want to learn, which is part of why he stays in the profession.
“Every day is a new day, and there’s a lot of challenges,” Meston said. “Certainly, at the level of fire chief there are leadership challenges, but there’s a lot of fresh faces in the department who want to provide a great service to the community.”