Costa Mesa names new fire chief

For the first time in more than three years, the Costa Mesa Fire Department will have a long-term chief at the helm.

Dan Stefano, a fire marshal and division chief for the Laguna Beach Fire Department, will take the job within the next few weeks pending a final background check, city officials announced Monday.

Stefano will end a string of interim fire chiefs who led the department while it underwent an extensive reorganization and city officials considered outsourcing operations to the Orange County Fire Authority.

That span of temporary leaders began in October 2010, when Chief Mike Morgan retired after three years in the job and the city selected Deputy Chief Kirk Dominic to take the helm on an interim basis.

"There were a lot of things we needed to work on in the department, and the reorganization plan took a long time to put together," city CEO Tom Hatch said.

Stefano will replace interim Chief Fred Seguin, who took the reins after veteran Newport Beach firefighter Tom Arnold left the position in June.

City officials had tapped Arnold for the interim leadership role in October 2011 while the City Council considered eliminating the department in favor of contracting with the OCFA.

The council decided against outsourcing in April 2012, and began working with Arnold on a plan to restructure the department for better efficiency.

In May, the council approved that reorganization plan, which included closing a fire station and reducing the number of personnel on duty at any given time, to save about $1.8 million a year.

Changes are scheduled to roll out in phases through 2014.

"[Stefano] of course will be implementing that plan as well as putting his own stamp on it," Hatch said.

Recruitment for a permanent chief began only a few months ago, when Arnold left, Hatch said.

Stefano, an 18-year veteran of the Laguna Beach Fire Department, was the final pick from a pool of 52 applicants, according to the city.

"I think he brings a lot to the table," Hatch said. "He is with a good current department. It's efficient and highly organized."

Stefano started as a reserve firefighter in Laguna, eventually becoming a fire captain in 2001, acting fire battalion chief in 2006 and fire division chief in 2010. He was promoted again in 2012 to fire marshal and division chief.

"I have been extraordinarily fortunate to work with some of the best in the business in Laguna Beach and now look forward to start the next chapter as a member of the Costa Mesa family and the stellar professionals of Costa Mesa Fire Department," he said in the release.

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