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Monday, December 27, 2010

Merced Fire Chief retires after 28 years as Chief

MERCED — Ken Mitten's first day on the job in 1965 was nothing short of a trial by fire, pun intended.
As a 22-year-old rookie at the Whittier Fire Department in Southern California, Mitten was new to the business of fighting fires. Regardless, when the station bell rang that afternoon, he was dispatched to a major blaze at three buildings in downtown Whittier.
Despite the many fires Mitten's seen over the years, he'll never forget the first one.
"The next morning, the Los Angeles Times had my picture, holding a hose, saying 'new fireman gets oriented,' he said, while laughing.
On Sunday, Mitten closed the final chapter on his career as a fireman, retiring as Merced's fire chief.
Of those years, the 67-year-old Mitten served 44 as a firefighter in Merced, and 28 as fire chief, having been promoted in 1982.
Among his major accomplishments, Mitten served for several years as the state's Region V Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System coordinator. The mutual aid system's mission is to address major disasters in any part of the state. In addition to Merced, Region V includes Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties.
With Mitten's retirement, city officials will begin a search to find a permanent replacement.
Fire Division Chief Steve Raney will serve as interim chief.
City Manager John Bramble said Mitten's knowledge and expertise will be sorely missed.
Of Mitten's leadership style, Bramble said the chief never asked someone to do something he wasn't wiling to do himself.

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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