City Manager James Keene today announced Palo Alto Fire Chief Eric Nickel has accepted a position to be the next Fire Chief for the City of Santa Barbara.
Nickel joined the City in 2012 from the Novato Fire Department, where he served as a deputy chief. During his tenure with Palo Alto, Nickel helped implement a dynamic deployment and cost allocation model to reflect changing community risk needs focused more on emergency medical services. In addition, Nickel led the department’s successful accreditation by the Commission of Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) last summer. Less than one percent of fire departments nationwide have been accredited. The process involves an extensive organizational self-assessment and external peer review of key performance indicators and core competencies that cover all aspects of emergency response, training procedures and documentation, equipment and facility readiness, administrative policies and practices, and emergency preparedness. Nickel’s last day with the City is Jan. 11, 2019.
“Since Eric joined Palo Alto, he has worked to transform the Fire Department into an innovative, efficient and data driven organization,” said Keene. “The department has evolved to focus on the increasing paramedic needs of the community,” continued Keene. “Eric also got the renegotiated Stanford Fire contract over the finish line and this year, accomplished the accreditation of the department. These are all exceptionally noteworthy achievements.”
Keene added that there are several factors contributing to staff departures from the City including the competitive job market and the exceptionally low unemployment rate particularly in the Bay Area; the retirement of baby boomers from the City and public service, and the shortage of senior level executives available for key positions in local government.
“All around us in the Bay Area and in California as a whole, cities and other public agencies are finding it exceptionally challenging to recruit for senior leadership positions,” said Keene. “It is not a surprise that our employees, who are the top in their fields, continue to be sought after by other cities and employers.”
The Palo Alto Fire Department continues to help support and respond to the many wildfires occurring across the state. In addition, PAFD will continue to provide extra staff at the Foothill Park Station during Red Flag warning days with periods of high winds.