The Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission appointed Patrick Reitz, formerly the fire chief and emergency services director for the City of Sheridan, Wyo., as the next Idyllwild Fire Chief. Reitz will begin service Aug. 1.
Reitz, originally from eastern Ohio, the Akron area, has always wanted to be involved in public safety and protection. He began his service as a volunteer firefighter and then emergency medical technician and paramedic in 1989 as well as completing a year in law enforcement in Ohio.
From there he migrated west, first to Washington, south to Oregon and then east to Wyoming.
He was an emergency medical technician and firefighter for Clallam County Fire Protection District 3 in Sequim, Wash. From there he became the chief of the Crooked River Ranch Rural Fire Protection District in Central Oregon.
As Crooked River Ranch’s fire chief, he grew an essentially volunteer department to a full-time well-recognized regional organization. He served as Sheridan Fire chief from August 2005 until February 2012.
Reitz has maintained his paramedic certification, even as fire chief. “I like it so much I thought I might want to become a doctor or physician’s assistant,” he said.
When discussing the highpoints of his career, Reitz mentioned that he was responsible for the explorer post while at the Sequim department. Several of the kids that participated in the program keep in touch with him.
“They’ve become fire captains, registered nurses,” he said with pride. “Seeing that! They send wedding and birth announcements. One wrote thank you for your patience and faith.”
His management at Crooked River “turned a district rarely looked to for help to one known for training, leadership, equipment and personnel.” To accomplish this, Reitz perfected his grant writing ability and became very successful securing funds to improve and augment the Crooked River District. When he left the $290,000 annual budget had more than tripled.
He also has experience rounding up loose emus. On two separate occasions, he has participated in the recovery of escaped emus, he said.
Idyllwild is a department “that has everything I’m looking for in a department,” he said describing his decision to come here. Idyllwild’s advanced life support and emergency medical services, structure and wildland firefighting opportunities on the urban wildland interface, and good people working in the department were attractions for Reitz.
His first six to 12 months will be devoted to meeting and learning the community. After that, he wants to see how the department can do what it does even better. Once he is comfortable, he would like to reach out to “those who pay the check and to those whom we serve and ask ‘What does the community want?’”
“Should the fire department focus on lowering the fire insurance rating? And what is it willing to pay to achieve that result? What is the community’s expectations for ambulance service?” were questions Reitz said would have to be discussed. He stressed that this planning will be a process, not a singular exercise done and forgotten.
“Government fire departments need to get away from reflexive and reactive behavior,” he said. “I’m thinking more proactive.”
And he recognized that the Idyllwild Fire Department’s budget resources are limited. He’s visited and seen the town is largely built out and not many vacant lots remain for future growth or industry.
While chief of emergency services at Sheridan, the city contracted out its ambulance services. Reitz stressed that he was responsible to the mayor and council to implement this policy, it was not his idea nor the direction he would have preferred. As a result, the city’s ambulance calls per year, about 3,000, fell nearly two-thirds to 1,000 annually.