Meet Novato's new fire cheif

By Corey Pride

Novato Advance

As someone who grew up in a family that included multiple nurses, Bill Tyler has always known he wanted to help

people.

The new Novato fire chief has spent more than two decades living out his desire, beginning with his previous job as an emergency medical technician.

“I always felt a calling to help people along those lines,” said, Tyler, 52, of his decision to become an EMT after college. “From that I met a lot of great people in emergency services, including firefighters. I was encouraged to consider becoming a firefighter-paramedic.”

Tyler started his fire service career in 1994 as a firefighter trainee with the Tamalpais Fire District. By 1996 he had moved on to the Novato Fire Protection District. Tyler said he always wanted to work where he lived and at the time Novato had homes that were affordable on his salary. In Novato Tyler, who is a Livermore native, found a place to work in the profession he loves, be involved in the community and raise his four children.

Tyler took over heading the fire department from former chief Mark Heine, who retired last month.

Tyler serves as Novato’s Emergency Operations Center coordinator and is co-chairman of the county’s Public Disaster Education and Preparedness Subcommittee. He said he is part of a county working group being led by supervisors Judy Arnold and Dennis Rodoni that is reviewing information about the North Bay fires. He said although the group’s work is far from finished there are some immediate lessons that have been learned from the fires.

“Emergency evacuation and how to alert people on evacuations is critical. It’s a step that requires the public to participate,” Tyler said.

He said he’d like every citizen in Marin County to visit the Office of Emergency Services website and register for Alert Marin, a system which contacts residents via phone call, text or email if an emergency occurs.

Tyler said the North Bay fires also highlighted the need for neighbors to help one another in making sure neighborhoods minimize risk of wildfires by clearing vegetation away from homes. He said he’s talked with local groups about becoming Firewise communities, a national program designed to decrease wildfires.

“A main goal of mine is to raise the level of education and awareness for everyone,” Tyler said. “What happened in the North Bay and what happens that we see seasonally in southern California, is starting to occur in northern California year after year.”

Tyler said the staff positions at the Novato Fire Protection District are full, but there are vacancies at the administration level. He said those positions provide opportunity for promotion as well as a chance for he and the department to review the jobs and determined if they need to be revamped. He said it is also increasingly important to make sure the department has enough personnel to send firefighters out to provide mutual aid and still have enough personnel on hand to protect Novato if a major blaze occurs.

Tyler said he wants to review the efficiency of the department’s programs and services, which preparing for the upcoming fiscal budget will allow him to do relatively soon.

Away from the fire department, Tyler is a member of one of Novato’s three Rotary Clubs and a longtime youth soccer coach. He said those experiences have allowed him to become close with people in the community and given him an advantage when he speaks to members of the public in his professional capacity.

After more than two decades of service at the Novato Fire Protection District, Tyler said when he thinks of his career it’s his colleagues that come to the forefront of his mind.

“They say the fire service is like a family, it really is,” he said. “The firefighters live and work together for days on end. It’s those people, those relationships that I’m so impressed with. That really is the thing that makes me most proud.”

Contact Corey Pride at cpride@marinscope.com.

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