Morro Bay Fire Department welcomed a new reserve firefighter to its ranks and new full time fire marshal, replacing long-time Fire Marshal, Tom Prowse, who had to give up a position he’s held for about 16 years and finally retire, after working more than 40 total years in the fire service.
Fire Chief Steve Knuckles on Aug. 1 swore in new reservist, Peter Rivera and new Fire Marshal, Matt Vierra.
Chief Knuckles explained that the badge was a promise to the public that Rivera had completed the necessary training for the position. All reservists wear badge No. 77, which he said was first issued in 1977 and is on loan to be replaced when he or she gets hired full time, either in Morro Bay or another fire department. “Ten or 15 different folks have worn this badge,” he said. Rivera’s proud mom pinned on the badge.
Chief Knuckles, in hiring the fire service veteran, Vierra, brings aboard a man he’s known since high school in Atascadero, where they were in the same 1982 graduating class. He’s been with the Atascadero Fire Department since starting as a reserve in 1991, Vierra told The Bay News in an interview after the badge pinning that Chief Knuckles sat in on, too.
After high school, he owned and operated the San Luis Bottled Water Co., which he eventually sold to Sparkletts Water, “And then I got into the fire service,” he explained.
He joked that Chief Knuckles, along with retired Atascadero Fire Chief, Curt Stone, talked him into it. Five members of that class of ’82 ended up joining the fire service, they said, all working at local departments.
He worked full time as a paramedic with San Luis Ambulance and part time with AFD from 1991-2000, Vierra said. In 2000, he hired on full time with the fire department as a firefighter/paramedic and after a year, made engineer. He’s held numerous positions both locally, statewide and even with the federal government.
He’s been a field-training officer for paramedics having earned his certification at Bakersfield College in 1996.
He was also the deputy fire marshal in Atascadero, is a fire investigator and part of the “Fire Investigative Strike Team” or FIST (as are Chief Knuckles and MBFD Eng. Scott Subler) an organization that investigates fires throughout SLO County. He’s also a member of the Incident Management Team in the county, which is called in to “manage” significant incidents like wildfires and hazardous spills. His last activation was June’s Hill Fire in the hills above Santa Margarita.
He’s also on Team 7 in the federal “Incident Management Team,” which handles big fires and emergencies on federal lands. “That’s a type-1 team,” Chief Knuckles explained, “events with up to 1,000 personnel.” Vierra said he has deployed to big fires in Colorado, Oregon and even Hurricane Katrina. “Any kind of natural disaster,” he said, “we manage the incident, the base camps.”
Vierra will handle the normal fire marshal duties, like plan checks, inspections and numerous others, but will also oversee the department’s Firefighters in Education Program in local schools.
At his swearing in, Vierra thanked his family, wife Mindi of 21 years, and two adult daughters, who both attend Cuesta College, joking that this will be the first time he’ll be home every day, working a normal 8 to 5 schedule.
By Neil Farrell