Mammoth Lakes Fire Chief Brent Harper took over the helm at Mammoth Fire District nearly 9 years ago. On August 15th, he will retire. His tenure saw many improvements in Mammoth Fire Department.
Since Harper took over, the Department has built a new fire station, increased the membership by about 30%, and purchased a new ladder truck and brush engine. Harper and the Fire Department also started an aggressive fuels reduction program in cooperation with the Inyo National Forest. This includes doing almost 2,000 home inspections for defensible space.
Harper said, “The greatest thing that we have done is our staffing model. We use a combination of full-time personnel and volunteer/part-time personnel to cover the ‘first-out’ engine. This has done a lot for our program,” he said.
Harper explained that the staffing model has Increased retention because of some extra income to the volunteers, has reduced response times and has provided for a “surge of volunteers for major alarms such as structure fires.” Harper said the Department can typically put more than 25 firefighters on a structure fire.
Before his stint in Mammoth Lakes, Chief Harper worked as a firefighter, dispatcher, Battalion Chief, and training officer for the Nevada Division of Forestry. He also served as professor, chief of the fire academy, assistant dean and director for the Regional Public Safety Training Center at Truckee Meadows Community College. His own steady progress in education includes a Masters Degree in Executive Fire Service Leadership. Harper also served as Chief of the Verdi Volunteer Fire Department along with many other fire-related tasks.
Asked about his work in Mammoth, Harper said, “I have had a great career. Mammoth Fire was a great ‘capstone’ to that career. Our greatest asset is our people, they do a fantastic job and are fun to work with!”
As for Harper’s replacement, he said in December of 2012 Frank Frievalt was hired as Assistant Chief with the intent that he would become Chief upon Harper’s retirement. Frievalt came from Sparks, Nevada. Harper said he has known Frievalt for a long time.
After retirement, Harper and his wife Debby will move to Gardnerville, where they bought a house a couple of years ago. At Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, Chief Harper will be recognized upon his retirement. He will also give the Council an update on the fuels reduction program. This will take place close to the beginning of the 6pm meeting under presentations.