VISTA — After four years, there will be a new fire chief in the city.
Jeff Hahn announced his retirement last week and Deputy Chief Ned Vander Pol was appointed to the top spot.
Hahn spent 35 years with the Vista Fire Department, working his way up the ladder becoming chief in 2015. He will retire Oct. 1 and in the meantime, is working with Vander Pol on the transition.
In January, he said began seriously thinking about retirement, noting the past five years has seen him miss events, family time and travel opportunities. Still, Hahn, 54, is grateful for the opportunity, noting he was able to accomplish many of his goals, including building a solid executive team.
“I had set some goals that I wanted to accomplish … and we’ve definitely moved forward and attained some of those goals,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with him to take over as fire chief. I think it will be pretty seamless to keep the operation moving forward.”
Once he retires, Hahn said he and his wife will begin to cross off travel destinations, he will ride his motorcycle and of course, get to some “deferred maintenance,” on his home.
“I had a very concentrated effort in this position,” he added. “My wife and I share a lot of common hobbies and things that we like to do. We have a pretty good bucket list of places we’d like to visit.”
Vander Pol, 48, is a 20-year veteran of the Vista Fire Department, the last six as one of two deputy chiefs. He’s risen through the ranks and now will oversee a department responding to more than 14,700 calls per year, which mostly consists of medical aid.
But as chief, Vander Pol said his primary function is to support the rest of the department by ensuring they have the best equipment and access to mental health support and providing the tools and resources needed to effectively and efficiently perform their jobs.
Vander Pol said succession planning for himself, his former position and other promotions within the department is another area of focus. Additionally, the transition will take Vander Pol all over the county to be introduced to other regional departments and task forces, where he’ll represent the city.
“I appreciate Chief Hahn. He’s done a lot of good here,” Vander Pol said. “It’s a position I’ve always been interested in. Chief Hahn has put a great groundwork in with both in the fire department, the city and community.”
As for facilities, Vander Pol said the department is in good shape, as three fire stations were built or heavily renovated in 2009. However, he said Fire Station No. 3 needs some work, but long-term plans to address those issues will be implemented over the course of the next several years.
Another positive area of the department is its growing behavioral health program. Vander Pol said about five years ago he suffered through a tough call and began to realize the benefits of talking and mental health.
Through his career, he said the subject has gained more popularity as firefighters didn’t know how to take advantage of such services.
The city and the department recently introduced Clifford, a chocolate Labrador retriever, as a facility dog trained to provide comfort to firefighters. Vander Pol is Clifford’s handler and takes the dog to the stations and public events.
The Thor’s Hope Foundation, as part of its Firehouse Project, donated Clifford.
“That’s been a positive program,” Vander Pol said. “That’s just one part of the (behavioral health) program.”
Photo Caption: Vista Deputy Fire Chief Ned Vander Pol (shown) was recently appointed the next fire chief for the Vista Fire Department. He takes over for Chief Jeff Hahn, who will retire on Oct. 1. Courtesy photo