Daryl Arbuthnott has only been the fire chief in Davis for 17 months, but now he is moving on, as Vallejo announced on Thursday they had hired him to fill a vacancy at chief.
Chief Arbuthnott was just hired in Davis in 2017, but has more than 37 years of experience in the fire service, most of that in Los Angeles.
“He is very experienced in all aspects of Fire Service and will be a great leader for our Fire Department personnel,” said Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff in a statement this week. “Chief Arbuthnott is an excellent communicator who will engage in the community and partner with businesses and neighborhoods.”
Davis City Manager Mike Webb on Friday confirmed to the Vanguard that the Chief will be stepping down from his role in Davis effective January 13th to pursue a Fire Chief opportunity in another community.
He said, “I wish to thank Chief Arbuthnott for his service to the Davis community and to the many accomplishments and contributions that his leadership has brought to the organization. It has been a privilege working with Chief Arbuthnott and seeing our Fire Department evolve and grow during his tenure.”
At the same time, Mr. Webb announced he was appointing Assistant Fire Chief Dennis Reilly to serve as the Interim Fire Chief effective January 14th.
He said, “Chief Reilly will bring stability to the department during this time of transition, will maximize continuity of department leadership, and will oversee the continuation of key department efforts, such as the development of the department Strategic Plan and evaluation of staffing and overtime as recently discussed with the City Council. “
He added, “In the coming weeks I will be formulating an approach and timeline to initiate a recruitment effort to fill the Fire Chief role moving forward.”
It was just October 12 that the city announced it had hired Mr. Reilly as the assistant chief to begin working on October 22.
According to the city’s release at that time, Mr. Reilly has a 44 year career in the fire services, serving for the last 6 ½ years as the Chief of the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District in central Missouri.
The Chief is also a retired Battalion Chief from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. In Cherry Hill, Reilly served as an operational Shift Commander, responsible for the development of the Cherry Hill Recruit Fire Academy and he was a founding member of the Department’s Technical Rescue Team.
Along with his service in Cherry Hill, Reilly was one of the original members of the New Jersey State Urban Search & Rescue Task Force. Among his multiple deployments, Chief Reilly operated as a rescue squad officer at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Mr. Arbuthnott was brought in at a crucial time for the city’s fire department. Since the retirement in 2010 by longtime Chief Rose Conroy, there has been a long serious of changes – from several interim chiefs, to working under Assistant Police Chief Steve Pierce, to being under UC Davis Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht, the pull out of UC Davis from shared management, then spurred on the hire of Mr. Arbuthnott in 2017, the first permament, independent fire chief in Davis in seven years.
He gets high marks from many for helping to restore a variety of traditions to the fire department, including this year’s 9-11 Ceremony. He also has been an advocate for updating and modernizing the standards and cover document which came before the council recently.
The consultant report identified 13 recommendations for council consideration. Overall, the report states that “the department is performing slightly below proposed baseline performance objectives within the current system. There are opportunities for significant performance improvement with modest, yet strategic investments.
The changes proposed were ambitious anything from bringing in Davis’ own ladder truck, to moving fire station locations – none of these changes were likely to be quick fixes – which led to the speculation that Chief Arbuthnott may have grown frustrated with the pace of change in Davis.
The question now becomes, where does Davis turn to continue the progress it had made in the last 17 months.
—David M. Greenwald reporting