Humboldt Bay Fire District recently announced its Firefighter of the Year: Fire Captain Chris Mitchell, a 17-year veteran with the department and a man who wears more than one fire hat.
“He’s been with Humboldt Bay since 2002. He’s just an incredibly solid person,” Humboldt Bay Fire Chief Sean Robertson said Friday. “He’s a very, very competent firefighter and he has earned massive respect in the department and in the community. He’s very dependable and someone people look up to. He’s such a solid role model for how he carries himself and he takes on a lot of responsibilities.”
Robertson pointed out that Mitchell heads up the department’s HAZMAT team and also coordinates HAZMAT response with regional agencies, he handles the department’s breathing apparatus and is active in union leadership.
“It means a lot. Being a fireman is more than riding an engine and going on calls,” Mitchell said on Friday. “Living in a small community people relate to who you are and they know, like the kids I coach, know I’m a fireman. It’s a 24-7 thing. I like to help people and be there for people. It’s a bloodline thing.”
Mitchell was born and raised in Eureka.
“He was a great kid, a great athlete and now he’s a great dad and husband,” said 1st District Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn. “He’s a local guy, solid. His dad retired from Caltrans. I can’t think of many others more deserving.”
Mitchell said he wasn’t completely taken by surprise, but also didn’t think he was most deserving of the honor.
“The guys I work with are pretty open and I have a lot of support and I know they have confidence in me,” Mitchell said. “I don’t want to seem arrogant and say I was expecting the award, but I’m a leader and people are very confident in working with me, that’s what I hear. That motivates me to keep doing what I am doing and focusing on doing the best job for the department and the community.”
Robertson said the selection process for the award began with him soliciting feedback from everyone in the department.
“I wish I could have given a lot of Firefighter of the Year awards,” he said. “Chris is a local guy, born and raised here with family that goes generations back. He’s just one of the high-quality people we have here.”
Mitchell and his wife, Brandee, a teacher at Cutten Elementary, have two kids: Ryder, 10, and Maya, 8. He considers being named firefighter of the year an honor but it’s also a nod to the support he gets from his family.
“It feels really good to be recognized. My family has suffered a lot with me being away, whether on calls out of county or picking up overtime shifts,” Mitchell said. “It’s not just about me being recognized — this is also about the recognition for the sacrifice my family has made. It’s very humbling but it’s also very rewarding. I’ve been in the fire service going on 20 years and this feels good.”
We honor you, Chris Mitchell.