Lemos stays on as Yreka's fire chief

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News
After serving as Yreka's fire chief on a volunteer basis since 2016, Jerry Lemos is now the full time chief.

After serving as Yreka's fire chief on a volunteer basis since 2016, Jerry Lemos is now the full time chief - and he's getting paid for his work.

"It was a good opportunity for me," said Lemos, whose job transitioned to a paid, full time position in April.

Lemos, who for the past 26 years has also worked full time for the County of Siskiyou, said a lot of people encouraged  him to apply for the new position. With the county, he mainly worked on health inspections, such as restaurant inspections as well as other duties. 

"I decided it was a great opportunity to become the full time fire chief," he said. "There are a lot of great people here. We’re moving in the right direction."

Yreka City Manager Steve Baker said there was a study completed in early 2019 regarding the needs of the fire department. One of the conclusions of the study was that they needed a full time fire chief instead of the part time stipended chief.

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"Basically, the needs of the volunteers, training, administrative functions, and planning for the future of the fire department clearly required a full time fire chief," Baker said.

The city began recruiting for the position in fall of 2019 with a nationwide search. After the extensive search was concluded, it was decided that Lemos should continue as fire chief. He was selected after a process that included interview panels of other fire professionals, a public question and answer period, and an interview session with department volunteers.

"Jerry was the volunteer fire chief at the time of the interviews, had demonstrated leadership both within the department as well as other career experience, had decades of fire service and knowledge of what was needed to move the department forward," Baker said.

The city recently made the assistant fire chief position a paid, part time position. BJ Laustalot had previously served as volunteer fire chief before Lemos.

Lemos said he's pleased to have Laustalot as assistant fire chief and said his knowledge and assistance has been a valuable asset. “He knows the department well,” he said. “We work well together.” 

Lemos hopes the city will eventually find the funds to build a new fire station, since the current one was built in 1926.

Currently, there are 18 volunteer firefighters at the Yreka Fire Department and Lemos hopes to eventually have at least 25. He said since it is a volunteer department, it can be tough to find qualified and interested people. He is hopeful to have cadets who are training to become firefighters at College of the Siskiyous stay at the station and get hands-on training in what it takes to become a firefighter.

If people are interested in volunteering they can call Lemos at (530) 841-2386.