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Chief McDonald Announces Retirement

Chief Justin McDonald and Deputy Chief Chris Emmons.

Arcata Fire District Fire Chief Justin McDonald has announced he will be retiring on June 26, 2024.

“It has been a gift to be part of the fire service and this organization. I am extremely proud of the men and women of Arcata Fire District who do amazing work and serve the people of Humboldt County with both passion and compassion. The past 30 years I have spent in the fire service have transformed my life, and I have no regrets,” McDonald said.

McDonald has led the Arcata Fire District since March 2001. The Special District serves more than over 36,000 in Arcata, McKinleyville, Bayside, Manila, Jacoby Creek and the surrounding areas in Humboldt County.

He will be stepping down from his duties as Fire Chief on June 26, 2024 and will serve as a transitional consultant until mid-August 2024. The board has selected Assistant Chief Chris Emmons to serve as the next Fire Chief. He will be sworn-in at the time when Chief McDonald steps down.

McDonald has spent his entire fire service career serving the people of Humboldt County. Coming from a fire family, he knew that he would be in the fire service when the time came. He grew up in Arcata and started out as a Volunteer for the Arcata Volunteer Fire Department at the age of 19. McDonald moved up through the ranks, and it took seven years to be picked up as a full-time paid position as a firefighter.

McDonald took the helm as fire chief in 2016, and he encouraged and supported countywide fire service collaboration to provide unified response planning and secure crucial resources so that firefighters and prevention officers could safely serve the public.

“Since starting as a volunteer firefighter over 30 years ago, Justin has shown outstanding commitment and dedication to the Arcata Fire District and its citizens. He has our gratitude and appreciation for his devotion to the duties and obligations he has faithfully fulfilled," said Dave White – who hired McDonald when he became a full-time firefighter.

Director Nicole Johnson said, “Through decades of steadfast leadership and unwavering commitment, Chief McDonald has shaped a legacy of excellence that will continue to inspire generations of firefighters. His dedication to duty and passion for service will forever remain a beacon of strength within our department.”

“In the six years that I directly worked under Chief Justin McDonald, I have appreciated his leadership and ability to provide nonbiased direction while maintaining focus on priorities of the Fire District. His focus is and was always protecting the Fire District and its staff, and he has been an excellent leader to all who have worked under him," said Fire Marshal Ed Laidlaw.

“I remember how excited Chief McDonald was when he got initiated as a Volunteer Firefighter in the mid 1990’s, and he has continued to show this excitement over the years. He and has taken on many tasks during his career, and it has been an honor to work with him as a member of the Board of Directors for the Arcata Fire District. It has been an even bigger honor to call Chief McDonald a friend for over 30 years,” said Jason Akana, Director.

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