UPLAND - After months of working under the threat of being disbanded, the Upland Fire Department has pulled through and is now being led by a new fire chief.

Rick Mayhew started in his new role Feb. 3 after spending the last few months watching city officials and employees negotiate concessions to prevent the outsourcing of public safety and severe cuts.

"I thought if this group can handle this situation, then this is the group I want to work with because from here we can just wait for the economy to come back and continue in the right direction," Mayhew said.

Mayhew, a La Verne resident, brings 31 years of fire service experience to the department, having previously served as division chief in San Marino.

Before that, Mayhew served as battalion chief for the South Pasadena Fire Department.

Mayhew said he was drawn to become Upland's fire chief because of the city's ability to come together and address the budget concerns.

"I realized that they're heading in the right direction and doing it with a great attitude. That's actually what the draw was," Mayhew said.

"I saw how professionally they were handling this, not just the Fire Department but other departments and how (City Manager Stephen Dunn) was navigating them through this, and it was a draw; it really was."

The department has not had a permanent fire chief since Michael Antonucci retired in September 2011. Antonucci stayed for an additional six months to help run the department while the city searched for his replacement.

The City Council hired retired Ontario Fire Chief Dave Carrier in April to serve as interim chief through December.

Mayhew's official start signifies the end of Dunn's proposal to outsource police and fire in order to relieve the city's budget.

Mayhew's hiring was placed on hold while city officials worked with employee groups on concessions.

All seven employee groups have agreed to pay their portion of their pension, which saves the city enough money to take outsourcing public safety off the table.

"He wanted to see what was going to happen with the Fire Department as far as outsourcing or not," Dunn said. "He wanted to be Upland's fire chief and he wasn't out applying elsewhere, so we're very thankful that he had the patience that he had."

The agreements will be considered by the City Council at its meeting today.

Mayhew got a formal welcome from the department and city officials during a celebration Thursday at Upland Fire Station 164.

"Over the past couple of years, we've endured some hard and challenging times," said Jeff Schneider, the vice president of the Upland Professional Firefighters Association, at the event.

"We have been amidst uncertainty and doubt, but through the hard work, decision and spirit of this group of dedicated individuals, we have pushed forward and continued to provide the high level of service to this community."

Schneider said Mayhew's hiring marks the turning of the page and a new chapter in the more than 100-year history of the department.

"We have a new leader and a new perspective for the direction of our organization," he said.


Reach Sandra via email, call her at 909-483-8555, or find her on Twitter @UplandNow.