Bryan Nicholes is now officially the new permanent fire chief of Ceres.
The appointment came Monday during the Ceres City Council meeting. It follows the city's 2014 dismantling of the single Department of Public Safety to return to separate police and fire departments.
City Manager Toby Wells made the appointment of Nicholes, who was acting chief since June, without seeking other applicants in the mix.
A member of Ceres Fire since 1984, Nicholes said he is very familiar with the city and how the department operates. He said he will be keeping the fire marshal duties as well as overseeing the code enforcement operations of the city.
"They're not going to backfill the deputy chief's position or anything at this time," said Nicholes. "We're still down positions management wise. Originally the fire marshal was a battalion chief position and that was frozen and it continues to be frozen."
Any of the three battalion chiefs are "fully capable of taking care of the department" in his absence, he said.
Nicholes, 58, graduated from Modesto High School in 1974 and first came to Ceres in 1984. He was hired by then Ceres Fire Chief Truman Showen as the city's sole paid firefighter in a mostly volunteer department.
"There was just two of us back then," said Nicholes.
Showen retired from the department and Gary Stephens took over as chief but Nicholes went to Burbank Paradise Fire Department in 1987. When Ceres went to the Public Safety Department concept in 1989, Nicholes was made fire marshal.
Nicholes said he has big plans for the department with his top goal being to "do everything we can to make the alternative staffing plan work" until the department hopefully snags a second round of SAFER grant funding to pay for six newer firefighters. Ceres was able to keep six SAFER grant funded firefighters through a stop-gap measure by browning out Ceres Fire Station #3 and curtailing overtime expenses.
"I want to work on bringing back a cutting edge department. We just kind of floated along for a while. We built our stations and I want to get it back to a different place, getting the department together as a whole."
He has plans to convert Fire Station 3 into a station/training facility as a satellite training campus for the Modesto Junior College Fire Academy to hopefully bring in a new source of revenue.
"As soon as we get the grant, it will go back into full staffing - that is one of the requirements of the grant. It'll be staffed 24/7, 365."
The SAFER grant should be awarded by June to September.
Nicholes said he also wants to place emphasis on completing a policy and procedures manual, and mentoring firefighters.