Becoming fire chief has been a moment Silvio Lanzas has been working toward his whole career, dating back to his time as a 14-year-old fire explorer.
The 40-year-old Norco resident was appointed the 11th chief of the Glendale Fire Department earlier this month, a little over a year after joining the agency in December 2017 as a deputy chief.
While he served as the interim chief for the past two months, Lanzas said in an interview a week after his appointment that he was still settling into his permanent role.
“I’ve worked every day since I was 14 toward this goal, being a fire chief and leading an organization,” the new chief said. “The fact that it got to be this one is still something I pinch myself about.”
But it’s time for the work to begin, he said, and he wants the Glendale Fire Department to greet 2019 with “optimism and perseverance.”
Lanzas said the department has been fortunate to be in a city with a “very public-minded council and leader” as well as “tremendous support for community.”
Those are qualities he said the agency should be optimistic about as it goes forward and recruits more firefighters.
Between 12 and 15 openings are expected to be filled by the end of the year, and Lanzas said he hopes to bring in the best firefighters to Glendale.
Prior to his retirement from the department in September, former Fire Chief Greg Fish said one of his goals was to have the agency be more reflective of the Glendale community. When he left the department, Fish had hired two female firefighters, along with two Korean American and three Armenian American firefighter/paramedics.
It’s a goal Lanzas hopes to continue to meet.
“Chief Fish left a very good foundation for me to build upon, and we’re definitely seeking the most qualified firefighters, while continuing to attempt to be reflective of our community,” he said.
A long-term goal for the new chief is upgrading all nine of the department’s fire stations, a process he said will involve a 10- to 12-year plan. All of the stations “are in desperate need of care and love,” with the oldest dating back to 1951, according to Lanzas.
As he grows in his role as chief, Lanzas said he also hopes to know not just everyone’s name in the department but the names of their spouses and children as well.
During Lanzas’ badge-pinning ceremony on Thursday, Mayor Zareh Sinanyan said Glendale City Council members have confidence he’ll succeed in his new role.
“You know this city very well. You understand its needs very well,” he said.
Before coming to Glendale, Lanzas spent the majority of his career at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, where he was a division chief. His former commander at CalFire, Fire Chief John Hawkins, attended the ceremony to congratulate his former protégé.
Hawkins said Lanzas was dedicated to his job and knew the importance of hard work, being prepared and building trust among his fellow firefighters and within the community.
“I’m very proud of you, prouder than words can express,” he said. “And I’m not surprised … You are Glendale’s gain.”
Lanzas’ sons, 20-year-old Isaiah and 8-year-old Jakob, were on hand during the ceremony to help pin his badge.
Before the ceremony, Lanzas said his wife of 20 years, Kara, has made his appointment as chief possible.