Valley News -

By Jeff Pack
Writer 

Temecula's new fire chief, Jodie Gray, marks milestone for city

 

Last updated 3/8/2019 at 1:28am

Shane Gibson photo

Temecula's new fire chief is Jodie Gray.

Jodie Gray, a 28-year fire service veteran, was appointed fire chief for Temecula, replacing fire Chief Charlie DeHart who retired after three years in the position.

It also marks a couple of firsts for the city of Temecula.

Gray is the city's first female fire chief and with Temecula Police Chief Lisa McConnell in charge of the city's sheriff's deputies since 2017, it is the first time that Temecula has females holding both public safety leadership positions at the same time.

Temecula City Manager Aaron Adams estimated Temecula may be the only city in California that can make that distinction currently, but he was quick to point out that both chiefs are supremely qualified for the positions.

"Gender aside, both of these professionals have earned the positions they hold and are equally qualified to represent the city of Temecula public safety agencies at the top of the ranks," Adams said. "I am very proud of their efforts, their professional development that brought them to these positions in their careers and equally impressed and proud that the city of Temecula may be one of the few municipalities our size that have such qualified female leadership serving at the same time in these important public safety roles."

Gray, who lives with her family in the Temecula Valley, has worked in Temecula before.

She was an engineer at the Pauba Station, then located in temporary buildings on the campus of Linfield Christian School for a short time and returning from 2010 to 2013 as a fire captain assigned to Station 84 on Pauba Road.

Gray started her fire service career in 1991 as a volunteer firefighter at Home Gardens Fire Station 13 in Corona, and she was hired by Cal Fire Riverside in 1993 as a firefighter I at Perris Station 1. She has been promoted several times throughout Cal Fire in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. In 2013, she promoted to battalion chief for La Quinta and transferred in 2015 to the San Jacinto Battalion, where she also managed the County Hazardous Material Team Program.

Most recently, in December 2017, she promoted to division chief assigned to the Strategic Planning Bureau before being promoted to fire chief for Temecula Feb. 1, after a competitive selection process.

"I've lived here since 1999 and I love the community," Gray said. "I love that they have four person staffing, really supportive of their fire department, very proactive. A lot of times when (Cal Fire) has pilot programs, they are the first to step up, financially and support wise. The city council is very proactive with their public safety."

Gray said she and McConnell have discussed making plans to grow the public safety plan for the city.

"Not just fire and then you have police, but it's going to be public safety and we're going to go into a lot more programs," Gray said. "(Temecula) has a Homeless Outreach Team, and we want to get involved in that also because we have a lot of contact on medical aids, on fires. What we want to do is have a group team, not just police, not just fire, so we're all on the same page. We're going to work toward being more public safety based."

Gray is also aware of the fire dangers that lurk in the hillsides and open spaces in Temecula and nearby cities.

"We've been in a drought for many years and now that we're getting some rain the fuels are growing," she said. "So, what that does is increases the chance of fire. You can't predict, but it's our goal to stop 90 percent of the fires to 10 acres or less, and we do a really good job at that. We have a lot of fire engines within a short mile range here, and we also have access to air tankers right out of Hemet. We have dozers; we work cooperatively with Pechanga, with North County, with Monte Vista, with Orange County, Cleveland National Forest.

"Being part of Cal Fire, the cooperative fire agreement, we can have all of our units drained like that. Say we have a fire in De Luz, we have strike teams that come up from San Diego; we send engines from all over the county, and we backfill our stations so that the medical aid is still getting attention," Gray said.

Gray said she is looking forward to the challenges ahead.

"It's exciting to be out there representing the face of Cal Fire, representing the Cal Fire Chief Shawn Newman, and I have his full support," she said. "Having a contact city is a huge responsibility, and it's an honor for me to have been chosen to be the voice of the fire chief.

"I was already a division chief, and they didn't give it to me. They made me work for it, so I like that as well because I've already proven myself," she said.

Gray said she is also aware of the significance of her accomplishment.

"The first city council meeting, I had my kids come, and they got to see it," she said. "My daughter was just over the moon. So, that was important for me.

"I have the ability to make a difference in this city and make sure it continues to grow and be the leader, so that's exciting. And it is a challenge – I like challenges," Gray said.

Jeff Pack can be reached at [email protected]

 

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