SLO fire chief leaving after less than 3 years

Charlie Hines has been credited with emphasizing the department’s focus on the community

acornejo@thetribunenews.comJuly 23, 2013 

Charlie Hines


San Luis Obispo fire Chief Charlie Hines will retire in September after less than three years with the city.

Deputy fire Chief Garret Olson will assume the job on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is named, City Manager Katie Lichtig said.

Hines has been credited with emphasizing the department’s focus on the community and bringing stability back to the Fire Department after the sudden death of Chief John Callahan in 2010.

“He inherited an organization that needed a healer, and that is what he did,” Olson said. “He still remembers exactly why he entered this career 38 years ago, and he is absolutely a servant. He puts the community and his firefighters first.”

Hines, who was sworn in as fire chief in December 2010, reorganized the department and created the first-ever deputy chief position in 2012.

More recently, he made the controversial decision to rehire disgraced firefighter John Ryan Mason, who was charged with assaulting a man in a bar when off duty. The case ended in a mistrial.

Lichtig will now decide if Olson will be promoted or if a national search will be done to replace Hines.

Lichtig said she will form several focus groups to gather feedback from the department and the community about the characteristics that are desired in the next fire chief before deciding how to proceed.

“Charlie came in at a time of change in the organization,” said Lichtig. “He brought stability, a focus on service and restructured the department to create the deputy chief position. The department will see the benefits of that for many years to come.”

Hines, 57, said that he has been contemplating retirement for more than a year.

“You look around at your friends and peers that are your age, and you see the health challenges,” said Hines. “I want to retire when I am healthy. There are some other things I want to do while I have time to do them, like spend time with my family.”

Hines has worked in fire service for 38 years. He previously oversaw the Yakima Fire Department in Central Washington, and also worked as a firefighter in Long Beach and La Habra with the California Division of Forestry.

His last day is Sept. 10.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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