The City of La Grande recently announced it will welcome a new chief to the fire department.

Gus Bryant, 56, ofBakersfield, California, will start March 28, according to the city.

Bryant, a 33-year firefighting and emergency management veteran,

began his career in the Kern County (California) Fire Department as a part-time employee in 1978.

He was hired full time to the department in 1983.

"One of the goals I set for myself was to become a chief officer," Bryant said.

When he steps into the city's top firefighting slot laterthis month, his career goal will be met.

La Grande City Manager Robert Strope said Bryant's experience will pay dividends for the community.

"We are very excited to have someone with Mr. Bryant's level of experience and knowledge joining our team," Strope said.

Bryant said one of the biggest reasons he became a firefighter was because his father was a firefighter - and at the same fire department Bryant worked at for more than three decades.

Most of Bryant's experience was spent at the Kern County Fire Department, according to a press release from the city. He was in charge of several different programs, including the Emergency Medical Technician program. He led a group of 12 paramedics that provided oversight and quality assurance for more than 700 EMTs from city, county, state and federal firefighting agencies.

"I am honored to have been chosen to lead the La Grande City Fire Department, and I am looking forward to working with the community, its leaders and the fire department team," Chief Bryant said.

Bryant said he plans to try to add to the training and expertise the La Grande Fire Department has already established. He wants to review how the department operates and what kind of training has been available to them to make sure the department has the "greatest chance for growth while ensuring they are meeting the necessary requirements for the position," he said.

"I feel it is important that all members of the department feel comfortable and competent in providing the most effective and

efficient service possible for the community," Bryant said.

In California, he was a regional instructor for the California State Fire Marshall's Office, where he assisted in rewriting the state curriculum Driver/Operator program. He also brings training and experience in wildland and urban interface firefighting where he was assigned to leadership positions, according to the city press release.

His educational background and fire service certifications include an Associate Degree in Fire Science, Chief Officer, Hazardous Materials, Rescue, Emergency Medical Services, and Emergency Management.

Bryant left Bakersfield in 2012 to work in Louisiana with DM Petroleum Operation, which is a subcontractor for the Department of Energy that manages the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the federal government, he said.

Bryant said he looks forward to moving to La Grande.

"It's a great opportunity," he said. "I'm excited to be a part of the crew."

Chief Bryant and his wife are the parents of four sons and the grandparents of four granddaughters.