New Rancho Santa Fe Fire District Chief takes command

By Karen Billing

There’s a new chief in town.

Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District held its badge ceremony to swear in new Chief Tony Michel on Wednesday, Nov. 10. Michel took over from former Chief Nick Pavone, who retired at the end of October.

“To say I’m excited is an understatement,” said Michel to an engine bay full of firefighters and friends.

As is custom, Michel’s wife Patrice pinned on his new badge. His proud father David Michel was in the audience, as well as his children Katherine and Steven.

Jim Ashcraft, president of the fire district’s board of directors, remarked that the board is very happy to install Michel as the new chief.

“He is a wonderful man with great integrity.” Ashcraft said. “He thinks things through and he’s careful to make sure everyone is served; he works to make things better.”

Ashcraft said this is the second time the district has been served by someone who started out as a cadet with the district, Pavone being the first. Michel started out as a student firefighter with the district 27 years ago.

“I remember 27 years ago, standing in about the same spot here with the captain and he showed me how to put my turnouts on,” Michel said, referring to the protective gear that firefighters wear when they go out on a call.

From student firefighter, Michel went through every position possible at RSF: firefighter, engineer, captain, deputy fire marshal, CERT program manager, deputy chief of training and, most recently, deputy chief of operations.

“In that time, everyone here has taught me a lot, how to grow up and be the person I’m supposed to be,” Michel said.

There were sniffles in the audience during the special and somewhat emotional ceremony and some “awww’s” were heard when he paid tribute to his wife.

“I want to thank my wife for being there when I’m not,” Michel said, surprising her with a bouquet of flowers hidden inside the dais.

As the Fire Chief, Michel will be responsible for managing the fire protection and life safety resources for the RSFFPD. He will also provide recommendations and technical staff assistance to the Board of Directors. Chief Michel’s other duties will include implementing and enforcing the rules and regulations governing the Fire District, continuing the implementation of the district’s Strategic Plan, and coordinating activities with other fire and governmental agencies.

“I am very honored to be presented with this opportunity,” said Michel. “I am humbled by the confidence the Board of Directors has shown in me and, while I know the position comes with many challenges, I am looking forward to serving the Fire District in this capacity.”

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