Chief Wilson steps up to help grow Fire Dept.

Casey Wilson

Merced’s interim fire chief, Casey Wilson, has been in fire service for more than half his life and has no intention of leaving the Merced Fire Department which he joined nearly 19 years ago. He gives more than lip service to his role in fire protection and wants the longtime fire agency to grow and prosper in the years ahead.

Wilson, 39, was appointed interim fire chief April 5, succeeding Chief Derek Parker who left to become an assistant chief with the Sacramento Fire Department.  He previously served as the fire battalion chief.

“This is a little bit cliche but I truly enjoy providing service to the community. I didn’t intend to become chief this early. I thought it would be later in my career,” Wilson says.

He is leading a department with 82 sworn personnel and five civilian staff members. The department has five stations, including the headquarters on East 16th Street, and stations on East 21st Street, Parsons Avenue, the Merced Airport, and Loughborough Drive.

Wilson gives high praise to Parker who served as chief for three years. During his tenure the department was able to hire 24 people thanks to a SAFER grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Safer, incidentally, stands for Staffing Adequately for Fire and Emergency Response.

“He (Parker) put a lot of good things in place. He acquired nearly $20 million in grants and really set us up on a path to success. I would like to continue down that solid foundation that he has laid,” Wilson says.

Born and raised in the Le Grand area, Wilson worked at Slate’s Grocery Store in the Plainsburg area, under the tutelage of former Fresno police officer Wayne Slate. As a mentor, Slate encouraged Wilson to volunteer with the Le Grand Fire Department when he was 17 years old.

“I immediately fell in love with the fire service,” he says.

Wilson has several goals, especially in emergency medical services. He wants to take the level of service rendered by firefighters to go from basic life support to advanced life support, with all personnel becoming emergency medical technicians at a minimum and moving up to paramedic level.

“We still have challenges in ambulance response time. We will have 12 paramedics within six months,” he says.

Other challenges Wilson faces is building a fire station for North Merced, somewhere in the vicinity of Bellevue Road and M Street. This new station could become an emergency operations center when it opens in three to four years.

One of Wilson’s priorities is to identify sustainable funding when the three-year SAFER federal grant expires.

The Merced County Board of Supervisors is considering changes and cuts in fire service and one of them is the closure of the McKee Road station. Wilson said closing that station, a half-mile from the department’s Parsons Avenue station, could impact the department and he is working in partnership with the county to find a solution.

Fire response time for the M, G Street and Bellevue Road areas is less than desirable, Wilson says. Passage of Measure C by Merced voters this spring will help with sustainable funding and shows voters support public safety, he adds.

Besides improving its stations, the department has another expensive but essential need – three new fire engines and two ladder trucks which could cost $7 million. And it takes around four years for these new fire engines to arrive once they are ordered. Wilson is working with City Manager Scott McBride to identify these necessary fund sources.

“I don’t plan on leaving this organization. I can provide sustainability and have 10 years left in my career,” Wilson says.

Merced has been a growing city for the last 15 years. One of Wilson’s goals is to increase staffing of the department’s fire prevention bureau from its current two staff members.

The fire department now fields 12,000 calls a year and it’s incredibly difficult to increase preventative fire inspections when they are already busy, he says.

Wilson graduated from Le Grand High School and graduated from the Merced College Fire Academy in 2004. He also attended Merced College and Santa Ana College and was certified as a chief officer through the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Wilson and his wife Tiffany, a local realtor, have three boys, including two 10-year-old identical twins and their 12-year-old brother who keep busy with school, baseball and track.

City of Merced Fire DepartmentMercedMerced County
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