This bi-weekly series is dedicated to the latest promotions and other news within the fire service.
LARRY HELMS will retire after 35 years of service with the Wheeling (WV) Fire Department (WFD)—14 of them as its chief. Helms began his fire service career with the Glencoe (WV) Volunteer Fire Department at age 16. He then joined the WFD in 1986 as a firefighter “pipeman” and began moving up through the ranks. Within a year, he had become a paramedic. Helms was then promoted to fire engineer in 1991, lieutenant in 1997, and captain in 2001. In 2006, he was named assistant chief, serving in the Bureau of Fire Prevention.
REGINALD FREEMAN was sworn in as the new chief of the Oakland (CA) Fire Department on May 17. Freeman comes to Oakland from the Hartford (CT) Fire Department, where he served as the emergency management director for five years. Before that, he served as the fire chief for Lockheed Martin and was a civilian fire chief in Iraq from 2004 to 2008 for the U.S. Department of Defense. Freeman replaces interim OFD Chief Melinda Drayton, who took over after former OFD chief Darin White took the top job in San Rafael, California.
AARON LIPSKI was unanimously selected as the new chief of the Milwaukee (WI) Fire Department (MFD). He is a 24-year MFD veteran and had served as its assistant chief of the support bureau for over a year before taking over as acting chief following previous chief Mark Rohlfing’s retirement in October 2020. Before becoming assistant chief, Lipski was a MFD deputy chief for the firefighting division. Prior to joining the MFD, he worked as an EMT for Paratech Ambulance Company and a Tunnel and Mine Rescue instructor for the National Tunnel Institute.
RAY IVERSON was selected as the new chief of the Redwood City (CA) Fire Department. Iverson has been a member of the California Fire Service since 1991 and currently serves as chief of the San Mateo (CA) Consolidated Fire Department, where he rose through the ranks to be its deputy chief before earning the top job. He has served in multiple capacities throughout Northern California, including as assistant chief/fire marshal for the Sacramento (CA) Metropolitan Fire District, battalion chief/fire marshal with the Benicia (CA) Fire Department, and fire inspector with the Contra Costa County Fire Protection.
WOLFGANG KNABE will take over as the new interim chief of the Santa Monica (CA) Fire Department (SMFD) on June 10. Knabe is a 40-year fire service veteran as well as a former U.S. Marine, Los Angeles City (CA) Fire Department firefighter, and Los Angeles Police Department SWAT officer. He retired as Fullerton/Brea’s fire chief in 2018 but came out of retirement in July 2020 to become interim chief of the Manhattan Beach (CA) Fire Department. He replaces Bill Walker, who will leave the SMFD to take the top job with the Bedford (TX) Fire Department.
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