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Sebastopol Fire Chief Bill Braga Retires

December 15, 2022, City News

Fire Chief Bill Braga Retires After 37 Years With Sebastopol Fire Department

Lifelong resident and community servant has served as Fire Chief since 2011

SEBASTOPOL, Calif., December 15, 2022— Sebastopol City Manager Larry McLaughlin today announces that after 37 years with the Sebastopol Fire Department and more than a decade serving as its Fire Chief, Bill Braga will retire on December 24, 2022.

A lifelong resident of Sonoma County, Braga’s path to firefighting was not a direct line. His father, Bill Sr., was an apple grower just west of Sebastopol for 75 years and one of the last apple growers in town. Bill Sr. was also a volunteer firefighter. Bill Jr. grew up harvesting apples and driving tractors and trucks. He thought that farming would be his livelihood until his father convinced him not to follow in his footsteps, cautioning that the apple business would not provide a steady income.

Braga’s preparation for a career in public safety began right after graduation from Analy High School when he enrolled at the Santa Rosa Junior College and received his Administration of Justice Degree. He then enrolled in and graduated from the Police Academy and was soon hired at the Sebastopol Police Department. After two years as a police officer, the young husband and father found that working nights and weekends was not optimal for family life, but he still wanted to be involved in community service.

After leaving the police force, Braga spoke with then-Fire Chief Russ Shura and Fire Captain Darrell Ramondo asking what it would take to be a volunteer firefighter in town. They thought it best to show Braga and invited him to join their Thursday night training. After riding on the fire engine and meeting all the volunteers, Braga was hooked, “just tell me what I’ve got to do to be a part of this,” he remembers asking the chief.

Braga officially joined the Fire Department as a volunteer in 1985, became an employee in 2009 and was hired as Chief in 2011.

During his tenure as Fire Chief, Braga is especially proud of collaborating with Public Safety Outreach Coordinator Skip Jirrels to develop the SebastopolReady and ‘Map Your Neighborhood’ (now called “Meet Your Neighbors”) programs. These programs help educate and guide residents in working together in neighborhood groups to be prepared for fires and other emergencies and their aftermaths.

Says City Manager Larry McLaughlin, “Bill showed true leadership during the wildfire evacuations and flood disaster, leading the City’s emergency response and recovery. Bill also coordinated the City’s pandemic directives and advice. I am very grateful and appreciative for his guidance and hard work during the more than 10 years we’ve worked together, and I hope he has a great retirement.”

Mayor Neysa Hinton adds, “Both as a mayor and fellow lifelong resident of Sebastopol, it’s been reassuring to know that our community has been able to rely on Bill’s experience and dedication. He’s always looking out for us, and I know that will not change, even as he enjoys his well-deserved retirement.”

Bill is looking forward to spending time with Yo, his high school sweetheart and wife of 47 years, their daughter, son, and five grandchildren. The family enjoys camping and being active together.