Peterson laying the foundation for the department’s success

TEMPLETON — Templeton Fire Department’s new full-time fire chief is not wasting any time.

Thomas “Tom” Peterson has been on the job for two weeks and every day, the department gets closer to adequate 24-7 station coverage with full-time staff.

He’s rounding out the full-time staff with the next big piece, a third captain, who will start in October.

“This will allow the department to shift to a 48-96 work schedule, two days on four days off, with an A, B and C shift. That will give us 24-7 coverage with three captains,” Peterson said.

The next crucial hire will be the addition of a full-time engineer who will work when the department is busiest.

“We’ll at least have full-time captains, a full-time engineer and then really step up our training program and augment with our part-time folks,” Peterson said. “We will probably be bringing on several more part-time folks.”

This is made possible in part due to the community’s passing of Measure A, a parcel tax increase of $15 per month in 2019 to provide additional funding for the District’s Fire and Emergency Services Department.

“The community has entrusted us with Measure A and we have to be able to serve the community because they have bestowed upon us that trust,” Peterson said. “I’m not wasting any time.”

Peterson is a decorated 30-year veteran of the fire services and relies on his many years to build a department that will meet the community’s needs now and in the future. He spent the past 16 years with the Atascadero Fire Department, most recently as a battalion chief. In 2014, he was named Firefighter of the Year by the Atascadero Elks.

“It’s awesome. I’m enjoying the excitement with all of the new folks and the energy level,” Peterson said. “Kind of makes me feel young again.”

Peterson is the first full-time chief since 2012, taking over for interim Chief Bill White, who was instrumental in getting Measure A passed. White and Peterson were battalion chiefs in AFD.

“I thought my counterpart in Atascadero, Chief White was going to take it, but he said nope, too close to retirement, not going to do it.

Peterson is no stranger to Templeton. He and his wife put Southern California in the rearview mirror in 1987 and moved to the small town nestled between Paso Robles and Atascadero on Highway 101.

“It was about 1,100 people I think is what the sign said. It was pretty small. No stoplights,” he recalled. “It’s like one of those Norman Rockwell painting-type of things, Americana at its best. That’s what we love about it. Great people, great community. The sense of community is huge. That is how we lasted so long as a volunteer fire department is that sense of community.”

He spent 21 years, 1990-2011, as a volunteer with the Templeton Fire Department.

“I volunteered with Templeton, and after a year I just went, this is what I got to do,” Peterson said. “I progressively got more training, went through the academy, and then got hired on with a couple of different departments, jumped around a little bit, and then wound up in Atascadero for the last 16 years and then here.”

Peterson takes great pride in now being to serve the community that he cherishes and be able to give back to the department that jump-started his career.

“That was what enticed me being able to have some fingerprints on the department before I retire and get a good model in place that will really serve the community well,” Peterson said. “A lot of positive things on the horizon.”