Stornetta has a passion for his job

On a warm October day, City Manager Tom Frutchy swore in Jonathan Stornetta as the new Interim Fire Chief in Paso. 55 people in attendance listened closely to Mr. Frutchy’s comments about Jonathan as he spoke about his duty, honor, service-above-self, values and community. Clearly, there was great respect for Mr. Stornetta —“Fire Chief” may be the title but the position is so much more than that. The sign outside the building says Department of Emergency Services. Let’s take a look..

Paso Robles Interim Fire Chief, Jonathon Stornetta

Photo by Chuck Desmond
Paso Robles’ newly-appointed Interim Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta

Jonathan’s age puts him right in the prime-time of when a career becomes defined by the person instead of vice-versa. He wasn’t born in A-town but the family moved there when he was just learning to walk. Jonathan was a born ‘n’ bred Greyhound. Years back, sensibility set in and now he and his family are here in Paso.

Good move!

Fresh out of high school, Jonathan took a full time position at the local fire house as he wanted to be a mechanic. The chief squished him out of that and encouraged him to become a fireman. He did. Jonathan became a reserve firefighter which led to an opportunity of going to paramedic school at UC Davis. Someplace along this path, Jonathan realized that helping others was really his calling. Once a person has received and understands that calling, the rest of the story just becomes a “How.”

With 21 years as a paramedic, Mr. Stornetta was also a full time firefighter in Morro Bay until Kevin Taylor recruited him to come to El Paso de Robles in 2001. That was a great opportunity for Jonathan and our growing community. In 2003, Jonathan was promoted to Captain, to Interim Battalion Chief in 2006, and to Battalion Chief after 10 years.

Following a thorough vetting process with a long list of applicants, Jonathan was chosen to be the new Interim Fire Chief, filling Paul Garcia’s shoes after his six-month stint. This title will last only eight months or less and it gives the City manager and Council time to watch Jonathan and for him to watch them! It’s much more than fires; it’s truly Public Safety and it’s all about saving lives and property and raising awareness throughout our pueblo.

The challenges are pretty daunting. So far this year there have been over 2,900 calls made to the dispatch office! That number was not anticipated to be reached for many years into the future. When a fire truck goes, so does the ambulance — if it’s available. The fire truck always has a paramedic on board. The ambulance is under county contract and covers about 1,000 square miles. Thus it may not be sitting idly and waiting to go. 65% of calls are medical emergencies; thankfully, only 7% are fires and 12% are incidents such as a fall in the home.

Paso has four fire engines, a ladder truck, a heavy-rescue vehicle and an aircraft rescue vehicle stationed at the airport. There are 26 total employees in the department of which fifteen are both firefighters and paramedics and six more are Fire Captains.

Over the next few months, Jonathan has to recommend three who will become battalion chiefs while maintaining a goal of 90% response within six minutes. He’s also been charted with a 2-year goal of
staffing a squad to handle the increase in calls from a growing community with loads of visitors, stick to a tight fiscal budget, and maintain the needs of the community’s protection.

If there is a moment left in his day, working on the five-year plan of an additionally-staffed new firehouse out on 46 East someplace, is also on the list. Only one word fits: YIKES!

Jonathan is a ‘’look-ya-in-the-eye” kinda guy with a very full plate. It takes only a millisecond to realize his passion for the job he swore to uphold and the protection of our fellow residents. He’s exactly the way Mr. Frutchy described him at the swearing-in ceremony.

At home, he and his wife have two children and they are deep into horse events as family activity. Somewhere down the list, “sleep” gets mentioned.

Chief Jonathan, thank you for doing for us what we ourselves can not. Best of luck and safety to you and your entire organization!