San Luis Obispo has a new fire chief

Charlie Hines
Charlie Hines Courtesy photo

San Luis Obispo’s new fire chief, Charlie Hines of Yakima, Wash., joins the city with more than 30 years of experience in fire service.

Hines, who was selected from a pool of 62 applicants, is expected to start work in San Luis Obispo on Dec. 6 at an annual salary of $148,394.

Hines joined the Yakima Fire Department in central Washington in 2005 as a deputy chief and was hired as fire chief in 2007. Hines oversaw more than 100 employees and a budget of about $9 million.

In San Luis Obispo, he will oversee 54 people and a budget of about $9.7 million.

“This place has been on my radar for a very long time,” Hines said of San Luis Obispo.

Before his time in Washington, he worked as a firefighter in Long Beach and La Habra and with the California Division of Forestry. In Long Beach, he climbed through the ranks to battalion chief.

Hines is a graduate of Cal State Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in education.

Mentoring is one of his strong assets, according to colleagues in Washington.

Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley said Hines would often respond to incidents alongside the firefighters.

“He is very passionate about his job,” said Cawley, adding that Hines has managed the fire department there under a tight budget, kept morale up and instilled a collaborative relationship with surrounding areas.

Hines is also noted for establishing good relationships with the fire union in Yakima.

He also recently oversaw the purchase of a new ladder truck — similar to one recently acquired by San Luis Obispo.

Former fire Chief John Callahan, 61, died of a heart attack Aug. 18, shortly after his announcement in July that he planned to retire in November.

Greg West, a retired assistant chief from the Los Angeles department and close friend of Callahan’s, will continue serving as the interim chief until Hines starts.

“I have very big shoes to fill,” said Hines, adding that he and his wife, Lorie, plan to move to San Luis Obispo and eventually retire here.

Dave Zabell, assistant city manager in Yakima, said Hines will quickly gain the respect of his new staff.

“He is the perfect guy for your city at this time,” Zabell said.

The City Council will host a swearing-in ceremony for Hines at its Dec. 7 meeting.