Nicasio fire chief relinquishes top post


Eric Blantz, chief of the Nicasio Volunteer Fire Department, stepped down on Dec. 31 after eight years in charge, allowing a new guard to take over. He leaves the department in the hands of Kent Grady, his right-hand man since 2009. Captain Robyn Burton will become the new assistant chief, and Mr. Blantz will stay on as a rank-and-file responder and board member. “I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to do in my time as chief,” he said. “But in some instances, leaders hanging on for too long can ultimately undermine the entity, so I decided to back off and let others take the lead.” Mr. Blantz led the department to a strong position, with a roster of 13 volunteers; three are emergency medical technicians, and one is a physician. During his tenure, the department installed automated external defibrillators at Nicasio School, Halleck Creek Ranch and Rancho Nicasio. Six months after one was installed at the restaurant, a cook suffered a heart attack, and the bartender shocked him back to life using the new device. “That was a good feeling,” Mr. Blantz said. Besides serving as chief, Mr. Blantz works for nonprofits, including the Carbon Cycle Institute and an organization providing technology support in the developing world. Looking forward, the new Chief Grady said his agenda is to coordinate and communicate more with other volunteer fire agencies. He previously worked for the Stinson Beach Volunteer Department, but without that experience he would have no connections, reflecting a siloed approach to firefighting in West Marin that he hopes to change. “I’m excited for the challenge,” he said. The departments just received its disbursements of Measure W funds: $6,673, or 4 percent of the revenue from the lodging tax. The money provides 20 percent of the department’s operating budget. Most volunteers will be getting their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine next week, but Chief Grady said training exercises will remain small and outdoors, and masks will be worn for the foreseeable future.