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New Fire District 5 chief brings 30 years experience

Charles Hanley will bring more than 30 years of firefighting experience when he becomes chief of Jackson County Fire District 5 May 30.

Haley was chief of the Rodeo Hercules Fire District in the San Francisco Bay area from 2010 to 2016 and had been a deputy fire chief with the city of Santa Rosa, Calif. He will succeed Interim Chief Vince Lockett, who has served since October 2016 and will remain with the district.

Hanley plans to bring fresh perspectives and enterprising methods to the challenges facing the district. Those might include going after grants to fund personnel and equipment and investigating cooperation with the Ashland fire department, which has been explored recently by both the district and the city of Ashland.

“I might be able to look at another way that’s lawful to work out something," Hanley said. "You want to maintain autonomy. You don’t want to blow up the entire system.”

Hanley served simultaneously for both Rodeo Hercules and the adjoining city of Pinole while both remained autonomous. He also worked in a shared battalion chief arrangement with his distinct, Pinole and Contra Costa County.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain a number of federal and state grants,” said Hanley. "Those have provided additional personnel or equipment. That is one of the things we could do. Ultimately, it’s the board’s decision.”

Rodeo Hercules covers 40 square miles and serves about 40,000 residents. It includes an oil refinery, sugar factory and heavily used Interstate 80. Fire District 5 covers 115 square miles with about 20,000 residents and Interstate 5. Both areas face earthquake threats, but freeway congestion is much worse in California, Hanley said.

“You have folks living farther away from the core, so you have extended response times,” said Hanley. “The biggest issues are you have a big wildfire threat, severe winters and longer response times.”

Executive search firm Wendi Brown Creative of Central Point conducted a search that produced 15 candidates. Seven were interviewed at district headquarters and one via Skype in early April. The interview process included representatives from the department, area fire and police agencies and the public, said First District 5 board Chairwoman Vicki Purslow. Three finalists were identified, and Hanley emerged on top. A background check on Hanley was conducted in his home area by a member of Brown’s team.

“I think the department is fully behind the board of directors,” said firefighter’s union representative Jimmie Johnson, who was part of the interview team. Hanley’s past experience and successful history in fire services gives the department a lot of excitement for the future, Johnson added.

Hanley began his career with the Santa Rosa department in 1982. He has a master’s degree in emergency services management from California State University Long Beach. He will be paid $118,000 in his first year.

The community is invited to attend meet-the-chief receptions at its three stations. A session will be held Tuesday, June 6, at Fire Station 2, 40 Neil Creek Road, Ashland; Wednesday, June 7, at Fire Station 1, 5811 S. Pacific Highway, Talent; and Thursday, June 8, at Fire Station 3, 116 W. Second St., Phoenix. All receptions will run from 6 to 7 p.m.

— Freelance writer Tony Boom lives in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com