chiefsunderlandThe first appointed fire chief of the Tulare County Fire Department will retire after nearly 28 years public service in Tulare County. It will be the end of a more than 40-year career in fire services. Chief Steve Sunderland’s last day on duty will be August 12.

Tulare County Administrative Office Jean Rousseau said Division Chief Ted Mendoza has been appointed as the interim chief until a replacement is hired.

Chief Sunderland was hired in February 2006 when the Tulare County Fire Department was created. He and his executive staff officers were tasked with developing Tulare County’s first self-managed, self-directed Fire Department.

During Chief Sunderland’s leadership, highlights with the Tulare County Fire Department include:

  • Working with CAL FIRE for seamless transition of emergency services.
  • Handling more than 12,000 emergency calls for service each year with 108 fulltime employees and 350 extra help firefighter employees.
  • Establishing a new fire station in Badger and bringing back full time staffing to Lemon Cove fire station, Doyle Colony fire station and part-time staffing at the Dinuba fire station with existing personnel.
  • Developing a more reliable fire apparatus fleet by lowering the average age of the equipment.
  • Completing an aggressive facility maintenance program over the first three years of operation.
  • Implementing a more effective Fire and Life Safety (Fire Prevention) education and enforcement program.

“We were very fortunate to have Chief Sunderland take the reigns when Tulare County made its decision to create our own fire department,” said Mike Ennis, Chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. “The Board of Supervisors wishes Steve the best of luck in his retirement and thanks him for his decades of public service.”

Chairman Ennis said one of the great achievements under Chief Sunderland’s tenure was the ability to absorb the effects of the economic downturn with no loss of allocated positions over several fiscal years and maintain the level of excellent service to the residents of Tulare County.

Prior to being appointed Tulare County Fire Chief, over a forty-one year period, Sunderland held many fire service assignments including that of Firefighter, Engineer, Fire Captain, Battalion Chief, Division Chief, Deputy Chief, Staff Chief and Cal-Fire Unit Chief. Chief Sunderland has also served as the Fire Chief for the Fresno County Fire Protection District, and Fig Garden Fire Protection District.

For a period of 15 years Chief Sunderland served on California Incident Command Teams; first as an Operations Section Chief then as the Incident Commander of his own Team. In addition to Chief Sunderland’s County employment he is a part of the National Fire Academy’s instructor cadre for Incident Command classes. Chief Sunderland is a member of the International Fire Chiefs Association, the California Fire Chiefs Association and is a charter member of the Sunrise Rotary Club in Dinuba.

“The past five and one-half years have been some of the most rewarding in my career,” Chief Sunderland said. “Having been given the opportunity to develop a new fire department is something few fire officers ever get to experience.”