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Nicholes to retire as fire chief
Bryan Nicholes
Bryan G. Nicholes is retiring as Ceres Fire Chief on July 28. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

After spending 32.5 years of his life employed by the city, Bryan Nicholes is retiring as Ceres' fire chief in 10 days.

A special reception will be held in his honor between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday, July 28 at the Ceres Community Center.

"I've spent 32-and-a-half years, I'm 61, it's time," said Nicholes. "I've been here long enough. It's time to turn it over to somebody else and go enjoy. There's a lot of things that we never got to do because of work and commitment and stuff and there's a lot of times my family got neglected."

Nicholes started his career in the fire service as a fire explorer scout with Burbank-Paradise Fire District in 1972. In 1984, he came to Ceres Fire Department as the only paid firefighter. He was promoted to the rank of fire marshal in 1986, and left in 1987 to go back to Burbank-Paradise as the fire chief. He returned to Ceres Fire Department as fire marshal in March 1989.

Nicholes said he wants to learn how to fly an airplane.

"I don't know God's got in store," said Nicholes, who was ordained as a chaplain in 2010 and as a minister in 2011. "We are going to do some things with mission trips, delivering wheelchairs to other countries with Hope Haven West and just start out small like that."

In October 2002, Bryan and wife Becki became involved in church. Since then, they, along with son Colby have been on three mission trips to a Navajo Reservation in Dilkon, Ariz. In 2009, Bryan and his wife Becki traveled to Guinea, West Africa on a mission trip which he said it was a life-changing experience. He and his family continue to serve God and attend New Life Christian Church in Turlock.
Nicholes said he will miss parts of his job.

"I'll miss being out in the community and seeing everybody but we're still going to live here. We're still going to see people. I've been into fire service for 44 years. The 32-1/2 in Ceres has been amazing, so many cool people that we've met, got to be friends with. We've watched the community grow. We've watched a lot of old people pass away, unfortunately. That's the history and now we're turning into old Ceres."

Over his career, Nicholes has served as a firefighter, captain, training captain, battalion chief, assistant chief, deputy chief, fire marshal and chief. His responsibilities have included enforcing fire and life safety codes, business inspections, plan reviews, training, fire investigation, fire suppression, code enforcement, hazardous materials mitigation, budgeting, technical rescue and the day-to-day operations of a fire department.

The responsibility of overseeing the Code Enforcement Division was added to his duties as deputy fire chief. It was an interesting challenge that brought with it a new learning curve. The Code Enforcement program operated under the motto "Take Pride in Ceres."

Bryan was a member of the Ceres Lions Club for over nine years and is current a member of the Ceres Rotary Club.

Along with his wife Becki, they headed up the "Love Ceres" community event for six years, which began from their attendance at Big Valley Grace Church in Modesto.

They have continued to host a small group for married couples for over 6 ½ years. While Bryan leads a Men's Fellowship Group twice a month.

Their son Colby is in his last year attending CSU Long Beach.

Nicholes' departure from the city comes at a time when the city is contemplating restructuring fire service in light of budget constraints. Nicholes said he believes the city may opt to eliminate the chief position as it concentrates on contracting out fire service to another agency, likely Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District.

"It just kind of makes sense for us to be able to do this now," commented Nicholes.

He said his firefighters want to ensure Ceres is well covered under any contract.

"There's a lot of things that go along with that. I mean, we do pit crew CPR which sometimes we're on scene up to 45 minutes or longer and it takes two engines so we're using six guys. If you reduce your amount of stations it reduces the amount of people to be able to respond to calls. We right now have about a five-minute response to most everywhere in our city, most of our protection zones. But if that changes you could have longer response. I don't exactly know what the plan is."