Friday, 09 December 2022

Lakeport fire chief to retire; Wells offered position


Chief Al Moorhead has served 47 and a half years with Lakeport Fire – 36 of them as a volunteer. He joined the department in June 1959 and worked his way up through the ranks, eventually being named acting chief in 1995 before he was offered the spot on a permanent basis in 1996. While he held down the chief's position, he and his brother have managed the family's Big Valley ranch, where he grows grapes and walnuts.

Moorhead said Thursday his retirement is tentatively scheduled to go into effect Dec. 31. A closed session meeting with the fire district board was to have taken place Thursday evening, he said. “There's a few loose ends that have to be picked up.”

The department has offered the chief's spot to Kenneth Wells, a captain with the Kelseyville Fire Protection District.

Jim Dowdy, an engineer/paramedic with Kelseyville Fire, said Wells teaches an emergency medical technician class for Mendocino College. He called Wells a “great guy and a good fireman.”

“He's well-known in this county for his fire experience as well as his personality,” said Dowdy.

Wells confirmed Thursday that he has been offered the position but that there are still some procedures to follow before it becomes official.

He's been with Kelseyville Fire for 36 years, he explained, 26 of those years in a paid position.

In size, Kelseyville and Lakeport are quite similar; Kelseyville has 16 total personnel, he said, while Moorhead reported Lakeport's staff numbers 15.

Wells' family has a history of public service. Dowdy noted that Wells' father served on the Kelseyville Fire board of directors, and Wells noted that his brother, Lloyd, is a retired Lakeport Police officer.

When the chance came around for a chief position, Wells said he went for it. “I've been going through lots of training to prepare for this job because it's an advancement.”

He's not a stranger to Lakeport Fire, having spent the last three to four years working there as a part-time paramedic, so he feels comfortable with the department, he said.

Moorhead said that after retirement he plans to remain involved in the department.

“We still need to figure out how to get a new fire station,” he said, saying that he would like to be a part of the process.

“Right now we have to finish with our land swap with the City of Lakeport,” he said.

Lakeport Fire wants to swap a parcel on Bevins Court for a more suitable location on Larrecou Lane, Moorhead said.

“The next thing would be to sit down and get the property to where a firehouse could be built and then we've got to look at the design of a firehouse and how we're going to finance it, because they don't come cheap,” he said.

It's the kind of project that Wells is familiar with, after having gone through Kelseyville Fire's recent building project in the city's downtown. He said he was the department's liaison with the contractor, and also did the purchasing for the building's furniture and appliances.

The process, which lasted eight months from breaking ground to moving in, “seemed like forever,” he said.

But Wells said he's prepared for a new project. “We have a lot of work to do. We have some property we need to secure, then we need to make sure the finances are going to be available.”

He added, “It's quite a process just to get started.”

What's next for Moorhead? There's still the ranch in Big Valley to take care of, he said.

And there may be another assignment soon. After lots of years of hard work, “My wife wants to go places,” he said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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