Editor’s note: This letter was sent to Idyllwild Fire Department interim Chief Mike Sherman. Commissioner Schelly read it aloud at IFPD’s June 26 meeting.

Chief Sherman:
After 16 years of grateful service, I submit this as my retirement notice effective May 31, 2012.

As I look back, I am thankful to all the people that encouraged and taught me how to serve this community. Ken Menz was the first one to invite me to participate as a volunteer firefighter in May 1996.

Capt. Jim Manietta taught the night classes in the station bay to receive EMT-I certification. Then there was a year of training with Capt. Terry Nielson resulting in a State Fire Marshal firefighter 1 (FF1) certificate in October 1997.

These steps were preceded by one of the most interesting interviews I have ever had in my life. Sitting before me in the hot crowded old training room were four men of immense size.

They looked like the linemen for a pro football team. Each was a least 250 pounds and more than 6 feet tall. They were paid call volunteer firefighter captains George Kretzinger, George Thomas, Keith Smith and future paid call volunteer firefighter captain Larry Donahoo.

I think their objective was to scare you off or get a lifetime commitment. They asked if I was really committed to IFPD. Behind them was a poster of firefighters with a two-and-half-inch hose advancing on a wall of flames going up more than 50 feet into the pine trees.

“Well if you are asking me to do medical calls that’s no problem,” (my confidence in patient care was high being a graduate of a doctoral program) “but if you want me to do that (pointing at the poster) I’m not excited about that.” They all laughed.

Capt. Kretzinger said it was a good thing I was afraid of fire. “The day you lose that fear is the day you could get hurt.”

Chief Don Gilden taught me frugality and dedication to IFPD until he retired. In 1998, Chief Tim Gustafson awarded me the IFPD firefighter of the year for service and dedication.

After Sept. 11, 2001, the IFPD board gave me the privilege to write a thank-you letter to the community for their support of the 9/11 firefighters and their families. The letter was published in the Town Crier and a framed copy was placed on the new training room wall.

I was elected President of Idyllwild Firefighters Association and other positions which lead to serving on the Idyllwild Community Fund Board and as President of the Idyllwild School Site Council.

My first 10 years at IFPD were a wonderful mix of driving the big red fire truck, recertifying, 2 a.m. alarms, medical aides, fires and rolling hose. There is camaraderie among our firefighters and many of those who were here on my first day are still here; captains Lott, Muhall and Reyes as well as engineers Mike Yount and Jack Peckham, who had just been hired as a career firefighter from the PCF ranks.

Over the past six years, there has been much change at IFPD. Some of those changes were surprising to put it pleasantly, so I ran for IFPD commissioner in 2009.

As providence would have it, California law has an exception for volunteer firefighters to serve on the board while maintaining their volunteer firefighter service. This was not popular with a few but the election results were clear.

Although retiring as a PCF, I will continue to serve as an IFPD commissioner. My focus today is still the campaign points made in 2009:

  1. Post more on the IFPD website;
  2. Decrease our budget;
  3. Reduce the parcel fees;
  4. Increase the fitness level at the department; and
  5. Set and approve policies that reflect the community we serve.
  6. Finally I thank my family for giving up a husband and a father all the nights I was gone, the community for their never ending support of IFPD and the big firefighter upstairs who watches over all of us. God bless IFPD, we need it.

    Charles A. Schelly,
    AA, BS, DC, EMT, FFI, PO, IFPD Commissioner