Sacto 9-1-1
December 13, 2011
Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt, leader in quelling rail tanker fire, to step down

Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt will step down Dec. 29, just four months after the successful resolution of a propane train car fire in which he showed his leadership skills.

"Lincoln's recent propane tanker fire revealed to the entire region what those of us in Lincoln already know," said Lincoln Mayor Paul Joiner. "Chief Whitt was the right man, in the right place, at the right time."

Whitt was not the only one who quickly responded to the rail tanker fire last summer. The quick work of a dispatcher and first responders prevented disaster after a rail tanker car filled with 30,000 gallons of propane ignited Aug. 23, prompting the evacuation of homes, businesses and City Hall in the northern part of the city.

However, Mayor Joiner praised Whitt's leadership, experience and his relaxed, straight forward manner for Lincoln avoiding a devastating explosion.

Whitt, 50, has been Lincoln's chief since 2006. Before that, he was a Battalion Chief for the City of Sacramento. Whitt, who said it was time to move on, regretted a lack of resources in a city press release.

"It is time for me to look at other opportunities," Whitt said. "Given the climate in the city, I have come to a point where it is frustrating to not be as effective as I would like to be. We have good people with very little resources to support them in carrying out the mission of this department."

City Manager Jim Estep credited Whitt with a list of accomplishments, including helping with the completion of two new fire stations, improving mutual aid and working relationships with other fire agencies and making sure firefighters have state-of-the art breathing apparatus.

The fire department went from volunteers to a paid 24-hour department in 2001. Since that time, Lincoln has boomed, growing to a population of 41,000 today -- a 236 percent increase.

The city said the number of fire and medical aid calls have more than tripled.

The department has 24 full-time employees and five volunteers. An interim chief will be appointed before Whitt leaves.

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