The Tulare County Fire Department is a fairly new department, as far as full-service fire departments go. The Department, as it exists today, was created and started operations on July 1, 2007. Prior to that date, Tulare County residents received fire protection services from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) through a service contract.
On December 20, 2005, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors decided to end their contract with CDF and to create a County Fire Department. The County Fire Department would be staffed by county employees and responsive to the direction set by the Board of Supervisors.
In February of 2006, Steve Sunderland was hired as the Fire Chief for the new Tulare County Fire Department. Chief Sunderland hired an executive team to help him set in place the necessary elements that would allow for a smooth transition from CDF to a County Fire Department by July 1, 2007. He hired Division Chief Ted Mendoza for Operations, Division Chief John Crivello for Training and Division Chief Joe Garcia for Fire Prevention.
A kick-off ceremony was held on June 29, 2007 with nationally recognized fire service leader, Ronny Coleman, being the guest speaker. July 1, 2007 marks the “birthday” of the Tulare County Fire Department.
Chief Sunderland retired August 13, 2011 after five and a half years of service. On October 23, 2011, the Board of Supervisors appointed Division Chief Joe Garcia to become the Department’s second Fire Chief. Chief Garcia remained the Tulare County Fire Chief until January 9, 2016 when Charlie Norman took over the role of Tulare County Fire Chief. Chief Norman, has served as Fire Chief for over 2 years now and has continued the work of those before him in setting the Tulare County Fire Department up to be in a position of success.