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Battalion Chiefs On The Job At Escalon Fire
Hiring one more person has allowed the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District to restructure its command system, with one Fire Chief and now three 'Battalion Chiefs' on the job.

Joe Pelot is the new hire, coming aboard earlier this month, moving to the Escalon department from a post as a captain with East Contra Costa Fire.

"I've lived in Escalon for seven years and I did volunteer for a short stint when I moved from Ripon to Escalon," Pelot said. "Then I started to commute to East Contra Costa."

The commute knocked down the time Pelot had to devote to volunteering, but he kept his eye on the department and said he is extremely happy to be working in the town he also lives in.

"It's one of the best feelings I've had," he explained. "There's no commute and being able to go out and see people that you know, I like seeing them in the community."

Pelot also was a volunteer in Ripon for 10 years and previously worked as a mechanic, prior to getting into the firefighting field. He graduated from Linden High School and went through the Ripon Fire Academy. He worked with Escalon Fire Chief Rick Mello when they were both in Ripon and has crossed paths with other Escalon firefighters over the years.

"I like just the challenge of the work," Pelot added. "You never know what you'll be doing day to day."

Pelot is one of three battalion chiefs for the department, each overseeing a set shift. Also named as battalion chiefs were assistant chief Terry Pinheiro and captain Randy Reid.

"I've been put in charge of operations and training, I'll be looking to build on to the training program," Pelot said.

He is a hazmat instructor and has also taught some fire classes during his roughly 15 years in the field.

The new structure for the fire department has each of the three new battalion chiefs working a 'kelly shift,' with a 56-hour work week, with 24 hours on followed by 24 off, on 24, off 24, on 24 and then off for four days.

Reid is battalion chief for the 'A' shift, Pinheiro the 'B' shift and Pelot the 'C' shift.

"Basically it was part of a reorganization, trying to ensure we had a fulltime officer on each shift," Fire Chief Mello explained, noting that the new structure has more people on duty at all times, including one command officer.

Mello will continue to work a regular day shift, with the battalion chiefs filling the rotating shifts. Two more firefighter trainee positions need to be filled, and when that happens, Mello said the department will have three fulltime people on regular duty.

"With the great job our reserves and volunteers do, we'll probably have four to five people in house all the time," he added.

Reid, as a battalion chief, will be responsible for overseeing the fire apparatus, equipment and facilities, while Pinheiro will handle the fire safety and prevention areas.

"That pretty much kept everybody in line with what they're doing now," said Mello of capitalizing on their area of expertise.

"I think we're truly on to something special here," the chief added of the new staffing structure. "My philosophy is you surround yourself with great people and let them do their job ... I think it's really going to fall into place nicely."