Summers promoted to fire chief

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Interim Fire Chief James Summers was officially named Rocklin Fire Chief last Friday by Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst. Summers has served for 26 years with the Rocklin Fire Department, including more than a decade as a Battalion Chief. He has been the interim fire chief since the retirement of Chief Bill Mikesell on July 13. In his new role, Summers will supervise three fire stations, 40 paid personnel and 44 fire volunteers. His salary will be $174, 974. “I am delighted to have Jim on my team. I look forward to the leadership he will bring to the department,” Horst said. “The City of Rocklin remains in good hands as we have one of the best Fire Departments in the state with the best men and women serving among its ranks.” Summers began his career as a trainee with the Citrus Heights Fire District in 1983 (before it became Sacramento Metro Fire Department). He joined the Rocklin Fire Department in 1986 and was promoted to Battalion Chief by Mikesell in 2001. In the month since Summers became Interim Chief, the department has sent firefighters to assist with the 2,650-acre Robbers Fire that threatened 170 residences near Foresthill. Firefighters also quickly stopped a small wildfire on Aug. 7 that threatened homes off El Don and Freeman Circle. During an interview with the Placer Herald last month, Summers indicated he would like to serve as Rocklin’s chief until he retires in another five or six years. Summers said he’s been dreaming of being a fire chief since he was a little boy growing up next to a fire station near Lake Tahoe. “I was always over there. My dad was a volunteer firefighter,” Summers said. “It has always been a goal of mine ever since I got into the fire service to be a fire chief.” As a graduate of George Whittell High School in Zephyr Cove, Nevada, Summers was known for playing on the varsity football, baseball and basketball teams all four years. When he was a junior, however, his future career as a basketball player seemed in doubt when he severely cut his arm during a locker room accident, but he bounced back. “I was averaging 23 points a game my junior year of basketball. The doctor said I would never play basketball again,” Summers said. “In the off season I practiced with my left hand continuously. In my senior I came back 25 points a game. I still shoot left-handed today.” Many of his fellow firefighters admit they’ve seen they same work ethic and dedication to fire training within the department. “I think a lot of it has to do with your upbringing and the values you get are instilled in you at a very young age. My parents had strong ethics, morals and were hard-working people,” Summers said. Robert Molinaro, president of the Rocklin Firefighter’s Local 3847, issued a statement congratulating Summers. “Chief Summers has committed himself to the betterment of the City and the Fire Department. Through his leadership, we look forward to improving the services offered to the community and continuing to move the Fire Department in a positive direction,” Molinaro said. “His strong leadership should carry the Fire Department forward for many years to come.” In his previous interview with the Herald, Summers said he’s dedicated to expanding the staff to include a firefighter/paramedic at each station. The City also wants him to negotiate a regional training center, fire administration facility and fire station at Sierra College, re-engage the fire apprentice program, strengthen the fire volunteer opportunities and negotiate joint regional services, such as a dispatch center and further joint training events. On July 24, Rocklin City Council members amended the fire union’s contract to grant a 1.5-percent raise that has been deferred over the last 3 years. Firefighters will also get a 4-percent raise in 2014. The City is also asking fire personnel to start paying the CalPERS retirement contributions previously picked up by the city. “These numbers are fluid and we have worked with the City Of Rocklin to ensure that the state of the City is healthy and adjusted our contract accordingly,” Molinaro said.