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Small island with important calls

New fire chief Hank Teran says Bainbridge has laid out the welcome carpet. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
New fire chief Hank Teran says Bainbridge has laid out the welcome carpet.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Hank Teran settles into his new post as the island’s fire chief.

Hank Teran saw a lot of tragedy and triumph in his 28 years on the front lines with the Long Beach Fire Department.

One of his last calls was a multiple alarm fire on the 18th floor of an old oceanfront high-rise building that resulted in a man leaping to his death.

It struck home for Teran who, during that same period, was pushing through a building ordinance that would have mandated retrofit fire sprinklers in older buildings like the one that caught fire.

The city of Long Beach adopted many of Teran’s recommendations as he was applying for a new job – as the chief of the Bainbridge Island Fire Department.

“I was looking for a life change and I was looking for somewhere special,” Teran said. “I saw the position open here and I decided to apply.”

Then deputy fire chief of the LBFD, Teran made a fine candidate for the island’s opening. While he has left behind the tall buildings and 58,000 annual calls of the sprawling Southern California metropolis, he takes his new job as the Bainbridge fire chief seriously.

“Even though Long Beach is large and has a large number of responses, it also has a population of over half a million people,” Teran said. “We have a smaller population and even though the call volume is not as high, every call is significant to each individual and each family that needs assistance.”

Teran took the post in mid-August, replacing interim Fire Chief Glen Tyrrell, heading up the 30-odd paid employees of the BIFD. His goals are outreach and establishing himself in the community.

“I’ve really tried to meet as many people as I can, both in the city as well as in the department,” he said. “I have opened the door for anyone to meet with me. They can go ahead and call or just drop by. I’m trying to get to know people on a one-on-one basis, because that is what it’s about. It’s all about relationships.”

Teran brings the vision of a department that is active in education and expands community participation in emergency response.

“We’ll be looking more at disaster preparedness and public education and working closely with the city on those issues,” Teran said.

“It’s really all about education. Everyone knows that despite our best efforts we won’t be able to reach everybody in a major disaster and people have to be self sufficient.

“We need to give people the tools and educate them so they can provide for their families in case of emergencies.”

He cited last December’s wind storms and power outages as a prime example of the need for the BIFD to work closely with the city and community in the event of disaster or a disruption in services. If community members take an active part in their fire service, safety can be better assured, he said.

“Getting my arms around how many volunteers are involved here is a priority,” Teran said. “We’ll be trying to get more volunteers from the island. People that live here and volunteer is a win-win if something were to happen.”

That community involvement is what attracted Teran to Bainbridge, and he has not been disappointed.

“My first impression was the community itself and how friendly people were. The carpet has really been laid out for me here,” he said. “When I met the people at the fire department I was impressed at how dedicated they are to the community and that really excited me.”

Teran, and his wife Emily, plan on being active in the community both on and off the job as well and aim to take advantage of the nearby camping and hiking opportunities.

Besides providing fire protection and medical services to the community, he also has his hands full at home.

“I have two little girls, a four- and a five-year-old, and when I’m not working they keep me extrememly busy,” Teran said.

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