CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Nick Ciardella

Nick CiardellaNick Ciardella, CAL FIRE – New SCFSC Director
Volunteer fireman, squirrel and cow rescuer, "Daddy"
Published in March 2007 SCFSC Newsletter

As we reported in the previous newsletter, three new Directors were recently elected to SCFSC's Board of Directors: CDF (CAL FIRE) Fire Captain Nick Ciardella, Spring Valley Volunteer Fire Department Fire Captain Jerry Serpa, and San Jose Fire Department Fire Captain and Wildland Officer, José Guerrero. Meanwhile, one of our "Founding Directors," CAL FIRE Division Chief Dave Athey, has retired. We were sorry to see Dave leave since he did so much to help this council get started and to support our activities. Farewell, Dave – Hello, Nick!

Nick Ciardella is an enthusiastic newly-minted director of SCFSC. He brought his infectious grin one afternoon recently when he came to sit for a "live interview."

First off, it seemed imperative to get him to nail down the proper pronunciation of his last name. We've heard it pronounced Italian style (Char-della) and American style (See-ar-della) – so which is correct? Well, says Nick, he'll gladly answer to either one, but it's true that the ancestor who conferred the name on his family was from Italy. Other ancestors were Swiss – all immigrated to the agriculturally rich Bay Area to work the land. Nick's family still exhibits an Old World hard work ethic, respect and connection to the land.

Nick's title is Fire Captain for CAL FIRE (up until recently, he and we called his organization "CDF"). In summers, he works out of the Almaden Station on McKean Road. Currently he is stationed at Morgan Hill. He is not the first firefighter in his family. His dad, Larry, served as a firefighter for the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at Hayward Air Base where he specialized in "Crash, Fire and Rescue," says Nick. Larry still is active as the Safety Officer for Spring Valley Volunteer Fire Department. In a classic role reversal, Dad Larry works for Son Nick who spends his "spare" time volunteering for SVVFD as the Assistant Chief.

We asked Nick how he prepared for his nearly "All Fire – All the Time" profession. He is a graduate of Milpitas High School, completed Fire Technology studies at Mission College in Santa Clara and graduated from SJSU with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration (Organization and Management were his focus). Is his bachelor's degree relevant to his life as a firefighter? Absolutely! Nick explained that organization, financial paperwork and maintenance are integral parts of his job.

Nick says that the adrenaline rush which accompanies each alarm, is his favorite part of being a firefighter. Almost as important is "being out in the community and networking with people," he says. He also finds it a pleasant challenge to interact on a day-to-day basis with his fellow firefighters. They do live in very close proximity, you know!

Nick and his wife Lisa (nee Serpa, but no kin to Jerry!) live just a few doors down the street from his folks, Christine and Larry, in Milpitas. Larry's "day job" is in garden supply and Nick helps his dad in that arena as well. When we asked Nick if he has "hobbies," he says he just likes to work. He doesn't do sports, he says, but he finds time to do some woodworking and home repairs – the latter probably because, as he says, he is "frugal." (His sister says he's just cheap!)

We had to ask whether Nick had experienced any dangerous or unusual fire response situations which he'd like us to know about. He had to chortle when he mentioned that "my 'first save' at my first fire was a squirrel" which he protected from being a burn casualty. He also regaled us with stories of "over-the-side" rescues – sometimes of people whose cars went off the road, but sometimes of cows needing to be hoisted out of creeks.

Would he want his children to embrace firefighting when they grow up? Nick says that he wouldn't mind – he simply would like them to do what they enjoy. It is a little premature to ruminate on his kids' professions (his little daughter is just 16 months old and his baby son is due on April 2nd), but Nick did say that he wouldn't exactly mind if either of them wanted to be a brain surgeon.

Nick turned serious when we asked what advice he'd give to young people who think they want to grow up to become firefighters. "I'd tell them to start acting responsible and mature now. Kids don't look far enough into the future," he explained. Clearly a kid who wants a coveted job in a profession which may hire only about 3% of its applicants, cannot afford any black marks in the record book!

And, on SCFSC, Nick ventured that "Fire Prevention is the best thing people can do." With more and more inexperienced people moving into hillside communities, we need to do more to help them learn about maintaining Defensible Space, he says. Amen.

Next: SCFSC People  |  SCFSC History Table of Contents


Is this an official history of the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council?

No, this is how Judy and I remember it plus the contributions of many past and present SCFSC participants.

Can I contribute?

Yes, your comments are welcome and appreciated. Please use the Comment form at the bottom of each history page or use the Contact form.

Are we done yet?

No, there will be many more pages, photos and contributions.  Hopefully, the history of SCFSC will never be finished.

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SCFSC People


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