dennenpat150vSan Bernardino County Fire Chief Pat Dennen, who oversees 81 fire stations in 60 communities, got to where he is today, thanks to an ROP class offered at Big Bear High School in 1974. As the BBHS graduate tells KBHR, “It was a fire science class in my senior year that got me excited. Then I went right into being a volunteer firefighter with the Big Bear City Fire Department.” Given this start to what has become an illustrious career, Chief Dennen says that he has become passionate about education, and getting students at the middle school and high school levels to think about their future. “What I’m trying to tell kids today,” he says, “is that they need to figure out what they need to do after high school. If kids would take advantage of these programs, like ROP, they would have a leg up when they go to interview. I kind of chuckle when I look back at my high school days, and wish I’d taken it more seriously.” He did get serious about school since leaving BBHS in 1975. “Now,” he says, “I have a masters degree and protect the largest county in the country.” In addition to overseeing the county fire department, Chief Dennen is also the president of the California Fire Chiefs’ Association and, in March, assumed the role of California’s Region VI Coordinator, meaning he is responsible for coordinating large-scale emergency operations for San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, Inyo and Mono Counties. Yet, he says his current challenge is keeping the status quo at County Fire. “Our biggest problem right now,” Chief Dennen notes, “is the same as any other agency or municipality, and that is funding. Our budget comes from property taxes. The important message is we don’t need anything, we just want to keep what we have. Would I like to have more firefighters on the street? Yes, but if the Board of Supervisors continues to support us at County Fire, we’re OK.”