Incoming Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles took a quick pass through the new Corona del Mar fire station Friday as it bustled with construction workers.
He noted the cabinets that weren’t there a few days earlier and pointed out where the truck and ambulance will be.
A new guy in a new station.
Except that neither is really new.
The firehouse is a rebuild of a station that for decades stood in the same spot off East Coast Highway and Marigold Avenue. And Boyles, 46, is a longtime Newport firefighter about to take charge of all eight fire stations, 114 firefighters and 13 full-time lifeguards after almost 20 years of climbing the ranks.
“It’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s an honor, it’s humbling,” he said.
But it’s not unfamiliar. Perhaps it’s even something he was born to do. Boyles’ father, Gary, reached deputy chief in the San Bernardino County Fire Department, then led a department in Contra Costa County as chief before retiring.
Jeff Boyles thought he would be a doctor until he was a junior in high school and asked his father if he would have done his career differently. His dad said no, and that was the endorsement young Boyles needed.
In 1994, after studying at Cal State Long Beach, Jeff Boyles also joined the San Bernardino County Fire Department. In 2000, he moved on to Newport Beach, where he has worked as a firefighter and paramedic, an arson investigator, a training chief, a battalion chief, and, since 2017, assistant chief for operations.
He lived in Newport Beach while first attending college, and in 1998, while still with San Bernardino County, he did a paramedic internship with the Newport Fire Department. That’s when he met Chip Duncan, whose career path he has mirrored and whose position as chief he’s set to take over upon Duncan’s retirement after more than 30 years in fire service.
The City Council is set to confirm Boyles’ promotion Tuesday. His annual base salary will be $235,500.
“With his in-depth experience and extensive knowledge of the Newport Beach community, Jeff stood out in a competitive field and throughout the recruitment process,” City Manager Grace Leung, who selected him for the job, said in a statement. “I have no doubt Jeff will hit the ground running and make a positive impact on the department, the city organization and the community in his new role.”
Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill said Boyles “loves his family, our city and the Newport Beach Fire Department. His dedication to all three is evident every single day. He has earned this position and will no doubt serve as chief with true distinction.”
Being a department head is another way Boyles can apply lessons learned from his father.
In addition to fighting fires, Gary Boyles was a Fontana councilman and mayor when Jeff Boyles was a boy. This is where the younger Boyles became literate in local government and learned the importance of community involvement, he said.
Outside of work, Jeff Boyles serves on the boards of Speak Up Newport, Leadership Tomorrow and the Newport Beach 1st Battalion 1st Marines Foundation. He also is operations vice president of the Orange County Fire Chiefs Assn.
As the father of two teenage sons, he volunteers with young people and unwinds by coaching youth football and baseball. His eldest son, Braeden, will be the starting quarterback in the fall for Edison High School in Huntington Beach.
Boyles eventually finished his bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public administration, both at Cal State Long Beach.
Boyles said technology has advanced but that firefighters still help people directly, carrying ladders and dousing flames, removing people from burning buildings, wrecked cars or deep water, and loading patients on gurneys to start medical care.
“I tell my guys, customer service to me is personal,” he said.