City Administrator Damien R. Arrula has announced the appointment of John “Pono” Van Gieson to serve as Fire Chief for the City of Placentia’s new Fire and Life Safety Department.
Mr. Van Gieson comes to Placentia with an exceptional background in both fire and military service.
Bringing over 33 years’ experience in public safety to the City of Placentia, Mr. Van Gieson has
dedicated his career to the Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service in suburban Washington, D.C.,
rising through the ranks from Firefighter Paramedic, EMT Instructor, Hazardous Materials Technician,
Station Commander, 911 Center Shift Supervisor, EMS Quality Assurance Officer, EMS Battalion
Chief, Battalion Commander, Assistant State Fire Marshal, and Operations Shift Commander. His most
recent assignment held was Executive Officer to the Operations Chief. In his previous position, he led
a shift with over 350 personnel at 37 fire stations protecting a population of 1.2 million residents.
Mr. Van Gieson honorably served in numerous leadership positions throughout his 28-year career with
the U.S. Army and Army Reserve and Maryland National Guard, including Infantryman, combat medic,
military police officer, Drill Sergeant, Operations Sergeant, Scout, First Sergeant and retired with the
rank of Sergeant Major.
In addition to an impressive work resume, Mr. Van Gieson also holds the designation of both Chief Fire
Officer (CFO) and Chief Emergency Medical Services Officer (CEMSO) by the Center for Public Safety
Excellence, Commission on Professional Credentialing. He is a member of the Institute of Fire
Engineering (MIFireE) and will receive his Executive Fire Officer (EFO) designation from the National
Fire Academy this year. Mr. Van Gieson earned his bachelor’s degree in Emergency Health Services
Management and Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Industrial Organizational Psychology from
the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He also holds his Certified Public Manager designation
from George Washington University.
“The nationwide search for Placentia’s Fire Chief garnered interest and applicants from around the
country and we could not be more excited to find such a qualified Fire Chief,” said Mayor Ward Smith.
“A panel of active and retired Fire Chiefs evaluated the large pool of applicants, and found that Mr. Van
Gieson brings the necessary skills, expertise, and leadership to lead our new Fire and Life Safety
Department. We are excited to bring him onboard and lead our new department in taking command in
“The panel of Fire Chiefs were very impressed with the professionalism and qualifications of all the
candidates,” said Senior Executive Fire Advisor to Placentia Scott Ferguson. “Chief Van Gieson stood
out for his progressive approach to organizational development and leadership within a large metropolitan Fire Department that serves approximately 1.2 million people who live and work in Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction. I am confident that Mr. Van Gieson will make an excellent addition to the Placentia team and serve as a regional response partner within Orange County.”
“Garnering his experience at the accredited, award-winning Montgomery County Fire & Rescue
Service, Mr. Van Gieson brings a wealth of experience to the City of Placentia,” said City Administrator
Damien R. Arrula. “His dedication to community involvement and public service, combined with
extensive years of fire and military experience, makes him the right choice to lead our new Fire
“I am humbled and honored to be selected as the inaugural Fire Chief for the Placentia Fire and Life
Safety Department. I’ve been greatly impressed by the dedication and professionalism of the City
leaders throughout this selection process. I look forward to working together to build and lead a
Department committed to providing the best fire service possible to the residents of Placentia and the
community,“ said Mr. Van Gieson.
John “Pono” Van Gieson will start as the new Fire Chief on Monday, February 24, 2020.