Former Battalion Chief Doyle Sewell to serve as interim chief as city seeks permanent hire


VISALIA – With the departure of Visalia Fire Chief Doug McBee, the department will see a familiar face at its helm, at least temporarily. Former Battalion Chief Doyle Sewell, a retired 26-year veteran of the department, returns May 9 to fill-in while the City looks for a new chief.

A native Visalian, Sewell joined the department in 1989 as a firefighter trainee. He rose through the ranks of firefighter, fire engineer, fire captain, and in 1999 began his service as battalion chief, a position he held for 16 years. During his years with Visalia Fire, Sewell served as shift supervisor, fire marshal, and interim fire chief. He retired in 2015.

“They asked if I was interested in coming back,” Sewell said, and he told the City he would. “It just sounded like a win-win.”

Sewell is a Redwood High School grad and attended College of the Sequoias. He continues to reside in Visalia with his wife of thirty years, Elaine.

In the meantime, McBee, who has served as Visalia’s chief for six years, plans to move back to Colorado to live closer to his children and grandchildren. His retirement on Friday, May 6, culminates 42 years in the fire service field starting in Aurora, CO. His career spanned working as a chief officer in Aurora later becoming fire chief and CEO of the West Metro Fire Protection District in the greater Denver area, and executive director of the Colorado Fire Chiefs Association. His move to Visalia was his only stint in California.

“I have been in the fire service most of my adult life and have been fortunate to work for three great fire departments,” he told the Sun-Gazette in March. “Most of all, I am honored to be the Fire Chief of Visalia which is truly a caring, committed professional organization taking care of the emergency needs of our citizens. I could not be more proud of the men and women I am fortunate to serve in VFD.”

“We are all genuinely sad to see Chief McBee leaving, but he has served this community well, and with great integrity,” said Visalia City Manager Randy Groom. “We wish Doug only the best as he enters the well-deserved retirement chapter of his life.”

Sewell, who remains a lifelong Visalia resident will serve up to six months as interim chief as the City launches its recruitment process in search of its new fire chief.

“Doyle is well known and respected in the local fire service and has a long history with the Visalia Fire Department and the Visalia community,” Groom said. “I suspect that his transition into the interim role will be quick and smooth, as he already has well-established working relationships within the Department, the City organization, and the community. Doyle is well suited to provide a seamless transition as Chief McBee retires and we work to find a permanent replacement.”

The Visalia Fire Department has six fire stations, and is staffed by 76 uniformed personnel, and eight non-uniformed personnel. The Department is an “All Hazard” department, equipped and trained not only for fire suppression and prevention but emergency medical services, investigations, regional hazardous materials response, rescue operations, and disaster response and coordination. The Department provides emergency services throughout the 38 square miles within the city limits and supports neighboring communities through mutual aid response on a regular basis.

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