Fire Capt. continues family’s first responder tradition

One of the first occupations children want to grow up to become is a fire fighter. As children grow older the reality of what it takes to become a hero often prevents the dream from becoming a reality. But for Exeter’s newest Fire Chief, Joanne Bear, fire fighting was in her blood.

Bear is only somewhat joking when she shares that she has 40 years of firefighting experience. Although her official career didn’t begin until 1998, Bear was born into a fire fighting family. Her father was the assistant fire chief in her hometown of Herald, Calif. while her mother served as the town’s dispatcher.

Bear fondly remembers a time before 9-1-1 when there was an emergency phone in her home. “My mother was the dispatcher, so when the phone would go off, we would tag along.”

When 9-1-1 became the universal emergency number in 1985, her mother retired as a dispatcher, but the knowledge imparted to Bear remained.

In 1998, Bear and her husband relocated to the Central Valley. Bear began her fire fighting career volunteering with Cal Fire, before being hired by Tulare County in 1999 as a dispatcher. Although she did not intend on following in her parents’ footsteps, Bear shared that, “It just kind of happened. I fell in love with dispatching and fire fighting.”

Bear took a brief hiatus in 2002 to stay home with her first child, but she could not stay away from the world of fire fighting. After completing her EMT training and Fire Fighting One education, she was officially hired as a lieutenant for the Tulare County Fire Department in 2007. “I always kept coming home to the fire service; no matter where my life took me,” said Bear.

In addition to becoming Exeter’s first female captain, Bear also has the honor of being the first female lieutenant hired by Tulare County. “I believe you earn your job through hard work and education. I have specialties and education that I bring to the table.”

A resident of Porterville, after receiving news that the position of Fire Chief was open for transfers in Exeter, Bear throw her helmet in the ring. On Tuesday, Jan. 26, Bear reported for her first official day as Exeter’s fire captain. “This is a neat community and I’m looking forward to getting involved.”

On her first day of training the station received seven calls, but with her years of experience she has began responding. “There is a really good group here, and there always has been.” Bear knew that in order to take on the role as captain in one of the busiest stations in Tulare County she would need the help of her family. “My family is very supportive. This is a busy station and they were excited when this opportunity opened.”

Bear and her husband are the proud parents of three children. First responding might extend to another generation as Bear’s daughter is planning to carry on the family tradition, “My daughter wants to become a fire fighter. That’s something she’s always wanted.”

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