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Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles Answers Our Burning Questions

NBFD Fire Chief Jeff Boyles

Most CEOs and officials have, through hard work and intelligence, climbed a ladder to the top.

So has Jeff Boyles. Thousands of them.

But what else would one expect from the Chief of the Newport Beach Fire Department.

Boyles joined Newport Beach Fire Department in 2000, after a six-year stint as a fire fighter with the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

Starting as a firefighter here, his rungs have included fire paramedic, captain, battalion chief and assistant chief.

Fires are measured in degrees. But so is Boyle’s broad education — garnered throughout his years of service: Associate of Arts Degree (AA) in Fire Technology; AA in Emergency Medical Services; Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science/Public Administration, and Master of Public Administration from Cal State Long Beach.

A stellar student, he was awarded membership in Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society for his academic achievements in 2018-2019. All this in addition to receiving numerous certifications and various technical trainings throughout the past 29 years.

To read his responsibilities at each level of management is in itself a management textbook, leading to a resume more than three pages long. It takes longer to peruse than it does to rub two sticks together to create an ember. But it’s worth the time for those aspiring to achieve chiefdom at a first-class fire department — or for those who think all firemen do is point a fire hose at the base of the flames.

As if leading a department of 144 full time fire fighters, lifeguards and other staff, plus 200 part time employees, isn’t time consuming enough, Boyle’s simultaneous commitment to giving has included numerous volunteer and community services, from the Newport Chamber of Commerce Commodores Club to coaching and managing seven different Pop Warner football teams, and Little League baseball squads; also, involvement with the Newport Beach 1/1 Marines Foundation advisory board, and Speak-up Newport. Plus a lot more.

NBFD Chief Jeff Boyles at a city council meeting in 2020

So how does one so busy keep refreshed and afloat? Time permitting, Boyles surfs and paddle boards (sans cell phone). But always within sight of his department’s dedicated and competition-winning lifeguards, who this year celebrated 100 years of service along the Newport Coast.

To learn more about Newport Beach Fire Department, and Chief Boyles (only the ninth Fire Chief in the city’s history), we asked the chief some “burning” questions.

A Newport Beach Fire Department truck assisting on one of the regional wildland fires in 2019. — Photo courtesy NBFD ©

NB Indy: What are the most common types of emergencies your department responds to?

Chief Boyles: The Fire Service has evolved into an all-risk profession incorporating both emergency and non-emergency aspects into our daily responses. Our Mission Statement is, “To provide all risk services to our community by protecting life, property, and the environment through prevention, training, education and response.”

Essentially, that means we utilize our resources to prevent accidents or problems from occurring through our Fire Prevention Division, programs such as fall prevention mitigation measures in care facilities, drowning prevention programs through our lifeguards to name a few. We train daily. We educate the community in a variety of ways from schools to homeowners’ associations. Lastly, we respond to incidents after they occur. Of those responses, our primary response is medical in nature. Over 80 percent of our emergency calls have a medical component. Medical aids make up the majority of our overall response matrix; however, even traffic accidents and fires generally require medical attention after the initial rescue effort. In 2022, we had nearly 27,000 total incident responses.

NB Indy:  What are the unique challenges of firefighting in a coastal community like Newport Beach?

Chief Boyles: Just like in life, water is both vital and a blessing, but it can also pose great harm and serve as a dangerous reminder of the power of nature. We are surrounded by water in Newport Beach. That brings beaches with swimmers and a harbor with many boaters. We have low lying areas on the Peninsula that are susceptible to flooding with King Tides and rain and cliffs that can become unstable during storms or earthquakes. Our Lifeguards are kept busy year-round with our favorable weather and fire crews have a variety of challenges as well.

Aside from boat fires, ocean rescues and harbor related rescues, fire crews rely heavily on each other for backup and supplemental staffing on complex incidents. Consider that most cities are bordered on all four sides by other cities, thus creating a scenario where units can readily access an incident to assist from multiple directions.

Here in Newport Beach, a third of our City is bordered by the Pacific Ocean which eliminates assistance from an entire direction. Add to that, Laguna Beach is separated from us by quite a distance to the south and we have multiple areas with limited access (such as our nine island communities that are only accessible by bridge.)

(left to right) Newport Beach Firefighter Javier Gonzalez and NBFD Fire Captain Chad Spiker look over information while fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire. — Photo courtesy NBFD

NB Indy: Can you describe any recent initiatives or programs aimed at improving fire safety and prevention in the area?

Chief Boyles: We recently completed a comprehensive update of the information on the NBFD Ready, Set, Go! Website (

This now provides information on all facets of home hardening and defensible space in the wildland urban interface. The revamped website now serves as a comprehensive repository of invaluable resources, covering all aspects of home hardening and the creation of defensible spaces in the wildland urban interface.

To empower homeowners further, we have introduced a user-friendly feature allowing residents to conduct their personalized home assessments or effortlessly schedule a home assessment with the expertise of an NBFD Fire Inspector by simply scanning a QR code. Moreover, as part of our proactive outreach, NBFD has been actively participating in numerous Homeowners Association (HOA) meetings within communities situated within the fire hazard severity zones designated by the City of Newport Beach. This engagement has proven instrumental in assisting homeowners and HOAs in making well-informed decisions that play a pivotal role in reducing their vulnerability to wildfires. We encourage homeowners who share our commitment to wildfire safety to consider joining the Newport Beach Fire Safe Council.

NB Indy: What should residents and visitors know about wildfire preparedness in Newport, given the state’s history of wildfires?

Chief Boyles: The Newport Beach Fire Prevention Division is committed to addressing the formidable challenges posed by wildfires. NBFD invests substantial time and effort into educating homeowners about the pressing threat of wildfires and the vital importance of effective mitigation strategies. In addition to training and planning for wildfire events, NBFD empowers residents to take proactive measures in safeguarding their homes and the beautiful Newport Beach environment from the ever-present danger of wildfires.

Newport Beach Fire Department sent two engines with eight personnel up the coast to the Thomas Fire in 2017. — Photo courtesy NBFD

NB Indy: How does the NBFD collaborate with neighboring agencies, especially during large scale emergencies?

Chief Boyles: The public safety agency we collaborate most with daily are our partners at the Newport Beach Police Department. We train and educate together in areas such as Fentanyl response, homelessness, bicycle safety and overall community outreach and preparedness. We respond together on traffic accidents, civil disturbances, fires and CPR calls. We train together for active shooter incidents, evacuation scenarios, wildfire events and anything else people or Mother Nature poses.

We work closely with all fire agencies in Orange County to ensure timely and seamless responses into and out of Newport Beach when needed. You may sometimes see a fire engine that says Costa Mesa or Huntington Beach on it – they come into our City on a weekly basis to assist and we go to theirs – based upon very detailed algorithms and GPS locators fed into a computer aided dispatch system. On rare occasions, you may see fire engines from as far away as Anaheim or Fullerton as they will be called to assist in the event of a larger scale incident. All Orange County agencies participate in a larger Master Mutual Aid system within the State of California that can request aid from the Mexican Border to the Oregon Border.

NB Indy: What advancements in technology or equipment have been implemented to enhance firefighting capabilities?

Chief Boyles: The advancements in technology to enhance firefighting capabilities have been subtle:

  • We have improving dispatch technologies and notification systems which allow quicker response. Currently we are in the process of upgrading our station alerting to a system that will improve response through the use of auditory and visual notifications that include display screens that provide a map location.
  • Documentation and Data Gathering improvements that allow us to analyze data to make better decisions. We are in the process of upgrading our fire reporting to a more modern program that will make the fire and EMS report seamless.
  • Safety gear has improved to allow the firefighters to be more aggressive in their fire attack while maintaining better awareness of their situation through the wide use of Thermal Imaging Cameras, SCBA improvements, and radio communications.
  • A new technology developed by the Orange County Fire Authority that will have great benefit to Newport Beach is a program called FIRIS (Fire integrated Real-time Intelligence System). It can provide real time analysis of emerging incidents to better notify fire agencies of where and to what extent a fire is occurring.
Early photo of Fire Engine Company 4

NB Indy: Could you share some insights into the recruitment and training process for Newport Beach’s firefighters?

Chief Boyles: There have been changes to the way we recruit new firefighters over the past several years caused by both internal and external factors. Internally, the NBFD has been working to staff all units with paramedic certified firefighters. It has been a gradual process over the past 10 years, and we are now at a point where we are only hiring personnel already possessing a paramedic license. This greatly decreases the pool of people able to apply for the position, though it brings in more highly trained individuals who are ready to function at a more advanced level on our most common call type which is EMS.

External factors include changes in the workforce including a greater willingness to change workplace or even careers more frequently. There were also several agencies who paused hiring during the pandemic only to then be hit with the Great Resignation which increased the need for additional personnel. That puts us into a situation now when we are seeing all fire agencies hiring large amounts of people causing the pool of qualified applicants to be smaller. In response to these challenges, our agency has partnered with our Human Resources department to implement a continuous hiring process. We are now constantly accepting applications, making us more nimble in the hiring process. This has worked out well for us as we have conducted three hiring processes this year.

Individuals wishing to apply with for a position with the Newport Beach Fire Department are currently required to be certified as a Paramedic and have completed a Fire Academy. The hiring process includes a written test of knowledge, a swim test, a series of interviews, background check, and medical assessment.

The training for individuals at NBFD starts with 6-8 weeks of a Basic Fire and EMS Academy where new hires are introduced to the equipment and practices utilized in Newport Beach. Probationary employees then continue their training throughout their first year and are assessed through a series of skills tests.

Regular training within the department includes maintaining basic skills through monthly trainings, in service for new equipment and procedures, mandated wildland, hazardous materials, and Emergency Medical Services training.

The City of Newport Beach hired Frank Crocker in 1927 as its first paid Fire Chief.

NB Indy: What community outreach and education efforts does the department engage in to promote fire safety awareness?

Chief Boyles: During their inspections, NBFD fire inspectors and fire crews prioritize education as a cornerstone of their mission. When engaging with business and property owners, NBFD places emphasis on the three essential “E’s” of fire prevention: Education, Engineering, and Enforcement. This comprehensive approach ensures that stakeholders not only understand the risks, but also gain insights into effective strategies for mitigating them. Furthermore, NBFD extends its commitment to fire prevention into the realm of education, collaborating with schools across the city to foster an environment that instills fire safety awareness in our educational facilities.

NB Indy: Are there any upcoming projects in the NBFD that residents should be aware of?

Chief Boyles: We are always looking for ways to stay engaged in the community and stay innovative in the public safety realm. Our Lifeguards teach SALT (Surfer Awareness Lifesaving Techniques) to local schools and classes. Our EMS Division works with care facilities to reduce falls and other injuries. Our Fire Prevention Division is working with HOA’s and Fire Safe Council to ensure home hardening techniques are well communicated and homeowners are able to retain and obtain fire insurance. We continue to fine tune our wildland response capabilities in Fire Operations. We conduct a one-day hands on class called Fire Ops 101 to stakeholders to educate them on the various aspects of our profession and capabilities.

Early photo of Fire Engine Company 1

NB Indy: How many stations are there and where are they located?

Chief Boyles: We have eight fire stations in Newport Beach and two Lifeguard buildings.

  • Lifeguard Headquarters located at the base of the Newport Pier
  • Lifeguard substation located in CdM Main Beach
  • Fire Station 1 (Balboa)
  • Fire Station 2 (Peninsula)
  • Fire station 3 (Fashion Island)
  • Fire Station 4 (Balboa Island)
  • Fire Station 5 (Corona del Mar)
  • Fire Station 6 (Mariners)
  • Fire Station 7 (Santa Ana Heights)
  • Fire Station 8 (Newport Coast)

NB Indy: How many personnel are currently with the NBFD?

Chief Boyles: We have 118 full-time sworn firefighters (from Fire Chief to Firefighter/Paramedics), 14 year-round full time Lifeguards and an additional 200 seasonal lifeguards, and 20 non-sworn staff including Fire Prevention, Lifeguards and Administration.

NB Indy: Any final thoughts on the Newport Bach Fire Department?

Chief Boyles: The NBFD was founded in 1911. We have a long history of dedicated service to this community and take great pride in providing excellent service. Our Lifeguards celebrated their 100 Year Centennial in 2023. We are poised to meet the changing dynamics of the community with regards to social and environmental needs. Our Strategic Plan and Annual Report can be found on our website along with our Mission, Vision and Values.

I am so proud of our workforce team and their ability to meet the Mission every day they report to work. It is a great honor to represent our people, our organization and our City within the firefighting profession. We are very respected in our industry. That is a result of the foundation built before us, the people continuing to innovate every day, as well as the support from the community.


The post Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles Answers Our Burning Questions appeared first on Newport Beach News.

Source: Newport Beach Independent

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