CHINO - After years of observing the Chino Valley Independent Fire District, West Covina Fire Chief Paul Segalla has been picked for the top position in the two-city agency.

Segalla will assume his new post on March 4.

"From my first exposure when I went there for a meeting and I met (Chief Paul Benson) at the time - and that was 4 1/2 years ago - he gave me a brief introduction to the district, who they were, and what they did and coming from a fire district past, I was intrigued by that," he said of the Chino Valley district.

Chino Valley Independent's board unanimously selected Segalla as its chief at its meeting Wednesday. The terms of Segalla's three-year contract include an annual salary of $188,328.

He replaces Fire Chief Kirk Summers who retired in October.

Segalla has an associate degree in fire science technology, a bachelor's degree in fire service management and a master's degree in public administration. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program and has also completed High Performance Organization training from the University of Virginia, according to the news release.

Segalla has led the West Covina department since 2008. He has a long history in the fire service, beginning with work at several Illinois departments, according to a CVI Fire District release.

Hired as a firefighter for the Downers Grove, Ill., Fire Department in 1983, he then worked for Aurora, Ill.


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, in the role of fire lieutenant while simultaneously serving as a captain for the fire department at nearby Berkeley.

He returned to the Downers Grove Fire Department as its deputy chief from 1994 to 2001 and became the fire chief of Lockport Township Fire District in 2002.

"The status quo is nothing I'm interested in. I'm definitely looking at some career growth, but I think the important thing here (at Chino Valley Fire District) is that growth is going to translate into what we can do to improve service to the community," said Segalla.

"And the other part is that I'm excited about growing with the department. I think there is a lot of possibilities for improvement and building relationships with the two cities and personnel."

The 51-year-old Rancho Cucamonga resident is an active member of various fire service organizations, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the California Fire Chiefs Association and other regional fire chief associations.

"His background, experience, education were truly factors that played into his appointment," said Sarah Evinger, CVI Fire District board president.

"The board felt he was an excellent fit for the department and could lead us in the years to come."

CVI Fire District hired Bob Murray and Associates to conduct a nationwide search for a new chief.

Of 49 candidates, the district chose six to interview.

"We had excellent talent before us, and we were fortunate to capture and exceptional candidate," Evinger said.

While Segalla said he's looking forward to creating new relationships in the Chino Valley, he will also be saying goodbye to a number he made over the five years he spent in West Covina.

"As an entire department we've had to persevere through some extremely difficult fiscal challenges like losing staff and using grant money to restore some of that," he said.

"And the economy hasn't come back strongly there so there is some continual fiscal challenges when staffing grants run out this fall and there is no real solid plan as how to confront that."

West Covina Fire Department has been struggling with an aging fleet of vehicles and is months away from having a $3 million federal grant expire.

Challenging the department recently is its aging fleet, causing it to have to borrow fire engines from the Los Angeles County and La Verne fire departments.

Segalla has plans to meet with West Covina's City Manager Chris Chung today to discuss his replacement.

"But nothing I would consider a plan," he said. "I think they're going to look at internal and external candidates."

Staff writer Juliette Funes contributed to this report.


Reach Canan via email, call her at 909-987-6397 ext. 425, or find her on Twitter @ChinoValleyNow.