Terwilliger gears up for transition to fire chief
Tomorrow is the changing of the guard at the Truckee Fire Protection District. As of May 1, Mike Terwilliger is replacing Jimmy Osburn as fire chief.
“It’s hard to replace Jimmy,” Terwilliger said. “It’s more like a smooth transition.”
Osburn announced his retirement in February after 28 years of service within the district and eight years as fire chief.
Terwilliger, 42, has been in the fire service since the early 1970s, and said becoming fire chief has brought him full circle in Truckee.
“I have lots of ties to Truckee,” he said. “There have been amazing coincidences.”
Terwilliger visited Truckee every summer in the 1960s, staying on Donner Lake with the Miles family at Cottage Pines. Sky Miles was on the TFPD board of directors back then.
When Terwilliger returned to Truckee in 1991 to establish the Truckee battalion for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, then CDF firefighter Bob Belden offered Terwilliger a place to stay on Donner Lake – it was at Cottage Pines.
“I thought that was ironic,” he said. “But it made me feel like I was at home.”
Truckee became a permanent home for Terwilliger in the early 1990s and today he lives in Glenshire with wife Lindy and teenage daughters Nicole and Michelle.
“Working with CDF all through my career has prepared me for the chief’s position,” he said. “I really like my job here with Truckee Fire. I enjoy working with the crew. They make it fun.”
Fighting fires is more than a job for Terwilliger, it is a way of life. He began riding on fire engines with his father when he was just 4 years old and rode with him every summer day until he was 16.
“Kids couldn’t do that today because of the liability,” he said. “But it was fun when I was growing up.”
Terwilliger remembered an incident that happened back in Livermore where he grew up.
“One day I responded to a fire with my dad. He asked me to help him (back light) a fire and when the winds changed I jumped in a ditch,” he said. “I will never forget him coming to pick me up. ‘Come on, get out of that ditch and get in the truck,’ he said. And when I got in he turned to me and said, ‘Now don’t tell your mother.'”
Terwilliger said his experiences are many, between fighting the 1.1 million-acre fire at Yellowstone and floods along the Sacramento River, or containing large hazardous material spills.
He said his training is extensive.
Terwilliger worked with CDF through nine separate ranger units from San Mateo to the Oregon border. He has been a chief officer in the fire service for more than 13 years.
Soon after establishing the Truckee CDF battalion, Terwilliger became the chief for the Donner Summit Fire Department under contract with CDF.
He was there for four years before leaving CDF and moving to TFPD as the deputy fire chief in 1996.
As far as future plans for the department and community, Terwilliger said his top priority is maintaining the level of service he says the community enjoys.
“I will continue to foster the interagency relationships with our cooperating and assisting agencies,” he said.
“This has always been a team effort.”
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