You might recognize him from CAL FIRE presentations during the aftermath of the Camp Fire. Perhaps you’ve cheered alongside him at a softball game with your children. Or maybe you’ll soon cross paths with him at your favorite campground. No matter where you meet, Chief Garrett Sjolund is a man we’ll be seeing more often!
Sjolund (pronounced “Sholund” from his Swedish roots) recently stepped into the role of Paradise’s new Fire Chief, part of his larger assignment as Assistant Chief, North Operations for CAL FIRE. He’s now responsible for overseeing four Battalions and ten Fire Stations across CAL FIRE, the Butte County Fire Department, the City of Chico Auto Aid Agreement, and the Paradise Fire Department.
On duty as CAL FIRE Duty Chief on November 8, 2018, Sjolund oversaw all fire operations that day, observing firsthand the hard work and humility of the local first responders. Today, he returns humbled and eager to work alongside such a resilient team in this community. “I am proud to serve such a tenuous group of firefighters and look forward to meeting the ever present challenges of wildland fires in our communities,” he said.
Sjolund’s career in firefighting began as a volunteer in Manchester, Mendocino County. After graduating from Point Arena High School in 1995, he began to work for CAL FIRE in 1996—and hasn’t looked back since. Over the last 24 years, he’s worked in the Mendocino, Butte, Tehama-Glenn, and Sacramento Unit CAL FIRE Headquarters as a Firefighter 1, Fire Apparatus Engineer, Fire Captain, and Battalion Chief. He’s worked in Fire Stations, Helitack, Air Attack and administrative programs, including CAL FIRE’s Butte Unit Training, Safety & EMS Bureau, Chico Air Attack Base, and Butte Fire Center.
Not busy enough? When he’s not at a station, you can find Chief Sjolund fostering the next generation of Northern California firefighters in a wide array of instructional programs, including 13 years as an instructor at the Butte College Fire Academy.
Especially suited to his new role with the Town of Paradise, Sjolund brings a unique understanding of small-town dynamics. Coming from a tiny community of 250, he grew up working in his family’s market. “Working alongside my family in the business,” he said, “provided me an understanding of ‘small community’ and what it means to be a member of it.”
Off-duty, Chief Sjolund nurtures his love of the outdoors alongside his wife of 18 years, Wendy Sjolund, and twin daughters. You’ll often find him camping at his favorite mountain sites, fishing with friends, or off-grid in his jeep.
“My hope,” Sjolund said, “is to lead the community in a productive and positive direction of fire safety and emergency response that will leave a lasting effect on these small communities for years to come.”
Okay, Chief Sjolund, what “fires” you up…
…in the community?
The energy to move forward!
…with your fire students?
The growth and excitement for what they’re learning.
…about helping people?
Knowing you had a positive effect in probably the worst situation of their life.
The number of people involved in the community. So many folks are willing to step up to the challenges we face.
…about being Fire Chief?
Being able to support the citizens of our communities. With my 24 years in the fire service, I hope I can bring my experience to the table in conversations and see positive outcomes for the community.
…When camping, fishing, or jeeping?
Being one with the outdoors in this big wild world!
…about being a dad?
It’s by far the most challenging life event next to that of being a mom. Our children are what carry on our values and love. Seeing them grow and being able to teach them what I know and, at times, push them outside their comfort zone to help them realize they can do it—that’s what puts the biggest smile on my heart.