Steve Barrett, 62, a 40-year veteran who had served at the Cal Fire station as battalion chief since 2000, retired and was replaced by 32-year veteran and Battalion Chief Mike Jarske, 54.
The Cal Fire Station is part of the San Jose-based Santa Clara Unit, which covers fires in the eastern part of the Diablo range from the Altamont Pass to Los Banos.
“I had to tell you it was the best part of my career working (in Patterson),” Barrett said. “I loved this job and wanted to stay as long as I could.”
Barrett joined Cal Fire as a seasonal firefighter in 1972 after a stint in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot.
“I started out working 120 hours a week for little pay,” he said. “I stayed and (was) just promoted through the ranks.”
Barrett, a Manteca resident who plans to spend more time riding his new Harley Davidson motorcycle, said his comrades are what he misses most about his job.
“I got real close with the people I worked with,” he said. “I always enjoyed the camaraderie.”
The biggest fire he remembered while at the Patterson station was known as the “Annie Fire” of 2003. Lightning strikes created a series of fires in some rough terrain that stretched between Highway 152 and Mount Diablo.
Like Barrett, Jarske has had a long career.
Jarske has spent most of his career in San Mateo and Mendocino counties. He has been working relief for battalion chiefs since 2011, rotating from several stations in the Santa Clara Unit, including Patterson’s station.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill,” he said. “I just want to keep up the relationships that Steve built here. I have a steep learning curve ahead before the fire season starts.”
He said he expects the staffing situation to remain stable at the station without many people transferring.
“Things are looking pretty good,” he said. “My priority here is to maintain the status quo.”
• Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31, or email@example.com.