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With Hack departing, Chico needs a fire chief with longevity

When the CN&R included Bill Hack on our “Whom to watch in 2017” list as one of five locals likely to make an impact this year, he made a comment that at the time seemed innocuous but now, as he leaves his job as Chico fire chief, perhaps was telling. “Never in my wildest dreams did I picture becoming chief … they kept asking me to step up for the department and the city, but it was never something I strived for.”

After 22 years here, he’s moving on to greener pastures. In the year he’s been chief, following six months as interim chief, Chico city finances have hollowed out his staffing levels. He’s headed to Rocklin, which has a joint fire services agreement with Lincoln, its neighbor to the north. The combined departments—serving approximately as many citizens as Chico—have six fire stations while Chico operates four, having closed two this year.

Hack is 46. That’s not young in firefighter years, but not ancient either. He had more to give Chico, if Chico had had more to give him.

We worry that the city will have a hard time attracting a successor who’ll be long for the job. There’s a chance of opening a revolving door for imminent retirees, as we saw with police. It also would be a shame to lose another great firefighter who “never strived for” the chief hat.

Chico is challenging, but also a great place. We wish Hack well, while hoping for a new chief with longevity.