Indication Given That County Fire Chief Replacement Decision Will Come On Tuesday

It is anticipated that on Tuesday, July 9 the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors will fill the nearly five-month long vacancy in the post of county fire chief.
Former San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig announced in January he had accepted the position of Santa Barbara County Chief. His official date of departure from San Bernardino County was March 15, but he actually took leave of his assignment on February 16.
In the interim, Don Trapp has replaced Hartwig as the county’s fire chief and fire warden.
Though there is speculation that Trapp will be given the appointment on Tuesday, he is nearing his 30-year anniversary as a firefighter. Within the industry currently, retirement after three decades is not uncommon.
Trapp became a paid-call fireman with the California Department of Forestry in Temecula right out of high school and began his full-time fire service career with San Bernardino County Fire in 1989 with an assignment in Fontana. He has worked through the ranks and was promoted in March 2012 to division chief, two years later to assistant chief, and promoted to deputy fire chief in 2016.
Kathleen Oplinger, the department’s interim deputy chief of operations, is also a potential candidate for fire chief. She began as a paid-call firefighter in 1988 with the Idyllwild Fire Protection District. In 1989, she went to work for the U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest, where she served for several years, working her way up through each of the ranks from crew firefighter to engine captain. Opliger temporarily served as a battalion chief in both operations and training. In 2005, Opliger came to work for the San Bernardino County Fire Department as a battalion chief, serving in the Valley and South Desert divisions.
Mike Antonucci, currently the county fire division’s emergency services manager and a former fire chief in Upland, is considered a longshot for the job, primarily because of his age. He has over 40 years of fire service experience. He has been with the county since 2012. He has a bachelor of arts and master of science in public administration.
Another dark horse for the top post is Mike Horton, the fire marshal in the county’s Division 12. He began his fire service career as a firefighter with the City of Norco Fire Department in 1980, promoting to the position of captain in 1985 with the State of California and eventually to chief officer in 1999 after relocating to San Jose. In 2001 Horton returned to the Riverside County Fire Department in Temecula. In 2006, he became a deputy fire marshal with the San Bernardino County Fire Department. He is a lead fire service ladder instructor for the Crafton Hills Fire Academy.
It was previously thought that County Fire Deputy Chief of Administration John Chamberlin, who had been Hartwig’s right hand man, had the inside track on the county fire chief position. However, on May 1, he was placed on paid administrative leave. He has remained in that status ever since.
Chamberlin started full-time with the San Bernardino County Fire Department as a firefighter/paramedic in Adelanto in September 1999, having previously worked as a fire dispatcher and paid-call firefighter for both the county and the City of Victorville. He promoted to captain in 2004, battalion chief in 2013, division chief in 2015 and made assistant chief in 2016.
He was promoted to deputy chief of administration by Hartwig in February 2017. He oversaw the fire department’s personnel, daily financial operations and special projects.
Chamberlin has a bachelor of science degree in healthcare administration and two associate of science degrees, one in fire technology and another in paramedic science. He has attended the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
-Mark Gutglueck

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