CalFire San Bernardino Unit Owens Valley Conservation Camp has a veteran firefighter taking the reigns as division chief.
Replacing Chief Bart Chambers, Paul Melendrez began his new position as the head of the local CalFire division last week.
Melendrez steps into the top post from his position as a battalion chief for the CalFire San Bernardino-Inyo-Mono Unit’s Owens Valley Division.
As division chief, Melendrez oversees more than 200 inmate firefighters at the Owens Valley and Fenner Canyon Conservation camps and dozens of state firefighters.
His responsibilities include ensuring firefighters are well trained and prepared to respond to local, state and national disasters.
Melendrez works with two battalion chiefs for the area, which stretches from the Eastern Sierra to San Bernardino.
Ron Jessen, who served in the Owens Valley from 2006-08, will be replacing Melendrez as battalion chief.
When it comes to working with inmates, the California Department of Corrections has responsibility for the prisoners 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until a fire call comes in. From there, a battalion chief checks out the inmates and transports them to the scene, where CalFire officials are responsible for them.
Working on the scene of state and national fire incidents is something Melendrez is used to.
He started his fire career in 1987 as a Fire Explorer for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He was hired as a paid-call firefighter by the CalFire San Bernardino-Inyo-Mono Unit in 1989 where he was assigned to the San Antonio Forest Fire Station in his hometown of Upland. In 1990, Melendrez was hired as a Firefighter I. Through 1996, he worked as a FFI at the San Antonio, Owens Valley and Fawnskin Forest fire stations.
“Making good use of his time as a seasonal firefighter, Chief Melendrez attended Crafton Hills Community College in the city of Yucaipa where he graduated from the Crafton Hill Fire Academy,” a press release from CalFire states.
Following the end of the 1996 fire season, Melendrez returned to Crafton Hills College where he attended and successfully completed paramedic training receiving his paramedic license in 1997.
Between 1989 and 1998, he also spent time working in the CalFire Riverside Unit and for several emergency medical service agencies in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
From June of 1998 into 2002, Melendrez worked a number of positions with CalFire as he moved up the ranks to captain. He returned to the CalFire San Bernardino-Inyo-Mono Unit with his promotion to a captain’s position at the Owens Valley Conservation Camp.
Melendrez also worked at the Independence Fire Station, working to open that brand-new CalFire facility in 2005. He was promoted to one of the Owens Valley battalion chief positions in 2009.
During his career, Melendrez has been involved with the CDF Firefighters organization in all the units he has been assigned to. He has served as chapter director, rank and file representative and as benevolent fund board member. He is currently assigned to CalFire Incident Management Team-10 as the training specialist and safety officer trainee.