SLO County Roundup

San Luis Obispo

New San Luis Obispo Fire Chief Charlie Hines took his oath of office Tuesday at the San Luis Obispo City Council meeting.

Hines, formerly of Yakima, Wash., joins the city with more than 30 years of experience in fire service.

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

Hines was selected from a pool of 62 applicants and will be paid an annual salary of $148,394. He will oversee 54 people and a budget of about $9.7 million.

Former fire Chief John Callahan, 61, died of a heart attack in August.

“I will do my best to instill trust and earn the confidence of all of those I am instilled to serve,” Hines said.

— AnnMarie Cornejo

San Luis Obispo

A kitchen fire significantly damaged the home owned by Paul Brown, a former San Luis Obispo city councilman.

Brown said the fire began around 11 a.m. Saturday in the kitchen of the Laguna Lake area home. Brown said he put some cooking oil in a pot as he started to make breakfast. He covered the pot with a lid, walked out of the kitchen for a moment, then returned, only to see flames leaping from the pot.

Brown said he tried to put out the flames but failed, and the fire began to spread. He, girlfriend Lauri Shiffrar and her dog escaped and waited for firefighters.

Flames damaged most of the house, built in the 1960s, and there’s smoke damage throughout the remaining part of the home, Brown said. He remodeled the residence last year, he said.

Brown, the former owner of downtown eatery Mother’s Tavern, said he should not have left the pot unattended. “More than anything else, and I know this from working in a restaurant, when you are cooking on a stove, you cannot walk away. It is a completely regrettable moment.”

Brown suffered first-degree burns to some fingertips, but otherwise was fine, as was Shiffrar and her pet.

Lost to the flames, however, were family heirlooms from his grandmother and father, Brown said.

He is staying with a friend and working with insurance company representatives on rebuilding the house.

— Tad Weber

San Miguel

San Miguel firefighters received a nod from a national animal rights group for their November rescue of a dog stuck in a drainage pipe.

The San Miguel Fire District will receive PETA’s Compassionate Fire Department Award. The honor comes with a framed certificate and a letter of appreciation.

“San Miguel is very fortunate to have rescuers who are ready to protect and serve both residents and their beloved animal companions,” PETA director Daphna Nachminovitch said in a statement.

On Nov. 21, a dog named Holly became trapped inside a pipe in rural San Miguel after she chased a critter inside.

Holly’s owner, Paige Diaz, called firefighters for help. It took the crew three hours to cut into the pipe and retrieve the unharmed pooch.

After the incident, Diaz and her husband put a new cover on the pipe and added wire fencing to the open end. PETA encourages other rural residents to do the same.

— Tonya Strickland

Los Osos

The bridge bear, one of two bear statues marking the entrances to Los Osos, was lit Dec. 2 with a new photovoltaic and battery system.

The bear is located on Los Osos Valley Road. It was first lighted 11 years ago with fluorescent bulbs hanging off the top of the “Welcome to Los Osos” sign.

Over the years, the light fixtures and controller corroded and the system failed, said Los Osos publicist Pandora Nash-Karner.

The rebuilt system uses the original 75-watt solar panel and battery, plus a new controller installed in a waterproof cabinet. Two light fixtures illuminate the bear and a third one lights the sign.

Gary Dove of Dove Systems volunteered his time and expertise for the job. He was assisted by Celebrate Los Osos, the Los Osos Rotary Club, Solarponics, Acropolis Lighting and engineer Brett Alter.

— David Sneed