Lopez bids farewell after 30 years at Winters Fire

Brad L. Lopez has served as as a firefighter in Winters for 30 years. He is departing from Winters to take on the role of Fire Chief for the Suisun City Fire Department. (Courtesy photo)

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After 30 years of service, the Winters Fire Department’s Fire Chief Brad L. Lopez is stepping away from his position to become fire chief at the Suisun City Fire Department.

The decision to become fire chief in Suisun City, however, was not easy by any means. He’s never been one to remain static in a comfort zone and constantly seeks out new challenges professionally. To Lopez, moving to Suisun City is an opportunity to take on new challenges and bolster his growth as a fire service leader.

Lopez is scheduled to depart from Winters FD on Aug. 21, with his first day at Suisun City FD effective Aug. 22.

Lopez’s departure leaves hearts heavy and eyes laden with tears. Winters City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa spoke highly of Lopez’s professionalism and effectiveness as the Winters Fire Chief.

Winters Fire Chief Brad L. Lopez has led the fire department as chief since 2019. (Courtesy photo)

“It was wonderful working with Brad. He’s a true partner, a collaborator, he’s dedicated to his profession, public safety, he has a calm demeanor, and he’s a creative problem solver,” said Trepa. “I’m going to miss our partnership. He’s such an easy-going member of the team and a very effective member as well. It’ll be an adjustment for us when he leaves and he’ll be missed very much.”

According to Trepa, the recruitment process to identify the next fire chief will begin after Lopez’s departure. In the meantime, Winters Fire Captain Matthew Schechla will fill in the role of Acting Fire Chief.

“Captain Schechla will do a great job juggling shift duties as Acting Chief. Together with our excellent team of paid and volunteer fire personnel, the Department will continue its mission of excellence during the Fire Chief recruitment, which should be posted soon,” Trepa said in her Aug. 12 City Manager’s update.

Schechla has 22 years of experience as a firefighter, seven years with Winters FD and 15 with the Burney Fire Department. Schechla is the B Shift Fire Captain, Operations & Training at Winter FD.

Reflecting on Winters
Although a bittersweet transition, Lopez reflects on his tenure with pride as he looks forward to the challenges the future has in store.

“I’m going to miss the people of this organization and their dedication. I never saw myself serving in a community I didn’t live in, but here I am,” said Lopez.
“I’m excited for the future of the department and I’m confident the city will find someone that will continue to lead this organization into the future and address the challenges. We have a great community and great leadership in the city and it’s opportunity for continued growth and change, and change is good.”

Lopez’s career at Winters FD began back in 1992. His family had moved to Winters from Vacaville when he was still a teenager, and at the time he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do as a career. One day he walked to the fire station — then located on Abbey Street — knocked on the door and fate answered.

Lopez became a volunteer at the Winters FD, and within six months he knew he wanted to pursue this life path.

“Both of my cousins worked at the City of Vacaville Police Department and Fire Department. They were always sort of an inspiration for me as a young kid, just looking up to them and seeing them in uniform and serving the community,” Lopez said explaining his inspiration to join the Winters FD. “They would always encourage me to look at the different career paths, so that always stuck with me having that exposure and experience. That led me to the door of the Winters Fire Department.”

Fast forward to 2002, Lopez was hired on as a full-time engineer firefighter. A year after that he was promoted to fire captain. In that role, he spent the next 17 years being responsible for operations, training for the department and the volunteer program. He was promoted to Fire Captain in March 2019 after participating in an Interim Chief program as the City of Winters transitioned the Fire Chief position to in-house.

“I never really envisioned myself being in this role or aspired to this level, but as I’ve gotten older my passion has grown for the fire service. I felt by promoting I could have a higher level of influence in our profession, with our firefighters and with our community,” said Lopez. “I wanted to continue to make this a great place to work, a great organization with wonderful people but also a safe community. It’s a community that I’ve grown to love and have raised kids here and they’ve gone to school here. It’s just been a passion and love of mine that’s pretty deep-rooted.”

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