Schechla appointed to Interim Fire Chief

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Fire Captain Matthew Schechla was appointed interim Fire Chief in the wake of Brad L. Lopez’s departure from the Winters Fire Department. (Courtesy photo)

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In the wake of Brad L. Lopez’s departure, the Winters Fire Department has been left in the hands of Fire Captain Matthew Schechla. Although he’s Winters FD fire chief on an interim basis, he’s no stranger to the role and the responsibilities that come with it.

Hailing from the small California town of Burney. Schechla’s firefighting career began when he was an Regional Occupational Program student at the age of 17. He learned about firefighting, what it entails and, after he graduated from high school, Schechla got his official start in Burney as a volunteer firefighter in October 1999.

While volunteering, Schechla attended the fire academy, received his degree from Shasta College and then went to paramedic school. From there, Schechla was hired at Mercy Medical Center in Redding and worked there for 12 years as an EMT/paramedic. Alongside those arduous responsibilities, Schechla also got hired on as a part-time firefighter back in Burney in 2004. 

“I worked both jobs from 2004 until 2014 just doing part-time at one and then full time in an ambulance. That eventually led to me getting a full-time captain job in 2014, but I’d been working as a captain before that for about
seven years. From there I applied to Winters in 2015 and have been working here ever since,” Schechla said, explaining his career path to Winters.

As if Schechla’s resume of experience wasn’t extensive enough, he also taught for the EMT program at Shasta as well as for the College of Siskiyous. Eventually, Schechla set his sights on Winters and never looked back.

“I was working full-time at Burney, and it’s a smaller fire district that didn’t pay much and there’s not a lot of future there. So, I’d been looking around for a bigger department in a different area to challenge myself. I also had some curiosity to try another department and see how they do things too,” said Schechla. “It’s very easy to get comfortable in a place, and when you move jobs it presents a challenge and it makes you think differently. When I came to Winters it was quite a learning experience and was exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for. Just to broaden the horizons, get a feel for how other people do things and take advantage of a different system.”

Schechla, however, has filled in as a temporary fire chief twice in the past, making him an ideal fit for his current role at the Winters FD. Although Schechla maintains he’s not quite prepared for the permanent job of fire chief, it is a goal of his in the future with this interim position presenting opportunity to learn more until then.

“The senior management team and I are looking forward to working with acting Chief Shechla,” said City Manager, Kathleen Salguero Trepa. “I appreciate his willingness to take on these added responsibilities. I think he will do great.”

With Schechla at the helm, the Winters FD will be searching for the next fire chief in the meantime. An arduous and competitive process to be sure, the plan is to have a new fire chief hired on and ready to go between Dec. 1 and Jan. 1.

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