Chris Jelinek is Manteca Fire Department’s newest battalion chief.
Jelinek joins Manteca Fire after serving 26 years with the Humboldt Bay Fire Department. With his hiring, all three Manteca battalion chief positions are now staffed.
His passion for firefighting took him from becoming a volunteer firefighter with the Arcata Volunteer Fire Department to serving on a “hot shot” forest fire attack crew and finally to the Humboldt Bay Consolidated Fire Department where he worked his way up to battalion chief.
Jelinek’s career was launched when he and his school teacher wife, Kim, were walking down the main street of Arcata hand in hand where they stopped in front of the volunteer fire department. He was in his first year of college and looking for summer work. Kim spotted a bulletin board that had postings for seasonal jobs on a sign behind them. She asked if he had considered becoming a firefighter.
There were two postings: one for a firefighter on a “hot shot” crew and the other for work on a fishing boat in Alaska. The firefighter flyer warned of “dangerous work and long hours” and the fishing offer really didn’t appeal to him beyond it being very cold up north.
“Why don’t you become a volunteer firefighter,” she asked, and that’s exactly what he did and hasn’t regretted it for a minute.
He was picked up full time in 1996 by the Arcata Fire Department.
Six years later Arcata combined with the Humboldt Bay Consolidated Fire Department. He qualified as a strike team leader in the Napa County area.
His wife Kim is a junior high school teacher and loves it, he said. She is also an “amazing cook” hitting a “home run” with every meal she prepares. Her battered butterfly prawns made with butter milk is the best, he added.
They have two daughters. Emma, 19, is a sophomore at Portland State and hopes to manage an Early Childhood Development Center after she graduates. Alyssa, 16, is a senior at Arcata High School and is planning to go into Environmental Sciences upon graduation from college.
His wife has been teaching for some 15 years. They have already been house hunting in and around Manteca. Jelinek has also been involved in a Rotary Club in Arcata and hopes to join one in the Manteca area.
Jelinek grew up in the San Diego area and graduated from Ramona High School after attending many schools because his dad was a Navy aviator flying F-14 and Phantom fighter jets. His brother Jesse is a chief petty officer on a nuclear submarine and his sister Erin is a second grade school teacher in Las Vegas.
Not only did he receive a warm welcome by Manteca firefighters in Manteca but also found a large banner across the bookcase in his office at the Union Road Station Two that read “Welcome Battalion Chief Jelinek to the Manteca Fire Department.” That was thanks to the Chief’s administrative assistant Amy Rubio.
“People here have been very welcoming,” he said. “They are hard-working and are definitely community oriented people.”
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.