Carson City’s new fire chief went to Harvard for awhile, occasionally goes to Hawaii on vacation, and proudly identifies his heritage as basic “American mutt.”
Bob Schreihans, who also has a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and took it once to the granddaddy of all bike bashes in Sturgis, S.D., earlier this month became the city’s fire chief and emergency management director. City Manager Nick Marano named the 52-year-old Schreihans to the post after Stacey Giomi, who headed fire and emergency services personnel for about a decade, left to take a job with a nonprofit health care firm.
“I’m kind of an ‘American mutt,’” said Schreihans when asked about his lineage, identifying his European progenitors as a mixture of people from Czechoslovakia, France and perhaps Germany. He said his parents were first-generation Americans from Michigan who moved to California, where he was born and raised in Pomona.
In southern California, as a teenager he became a lifeguard and later a trained paramedic, which led into fire service work.
“I came here as one of the original paramedics in the fire department,” Schreihans said, adding he is the only one of that first half dozen paramedics still with the department.
A competitor for three years on his high school water polo team, he also was a lifeguard and became an emergency medical technician before he was 18. He went to paramedic school at age 19 and during that post-high school period was on the men’s national water polo squad. After coming to Nevada and while working in the Carson City department, Schreihans took various fire signs course work and then went after his college degree.
He obtained it from the University of Nevada, Reno, in business administration even as he continued working full time.
Not long after that, early in this century he went to Cambridge, Mass., for a 12-week pressure cooker course at Harvard University’s Business School. In the 8 a.m.-5 p.m. coursework daily, he learned in the school’s labor/management program — among other things — that the normally dreaded discharge from employment isn’t always a bad thing. At least that was the view of Noam Chomsky, famed academician and linguist, one of Schreihans’ instructors.
“It’s good for people to get fired,” Schreihans said Chomsky told students in the post-graduate program.
The city’s new fire chief says until that point in time, it was a perspective that hadn’t been on his radar screen.
Schreihans is married and has two children, a daughter named Amanda, who is a singer in Las Vegas, and a step-son, Blake, now in his first year at UNR. His daughter was on American Idol and has entertained worldwide; Blake is still figuring out his future career, but clearly has options: the young man is both an artist and became adept at fixing up a 1968 Mustang that he drives and owns along with the new fire chief.
Schreihans and his wife, Nancy, have a condominium in Hawaii and he has a cab over camper for his pickup truck, along with that Harley cycle. Schreihans also said he owns some rental properties and enjoys fixing them up.
He said Nancy likes warm weather, alluding to the Hawaii getaways, yet he also enjoys colder outdoor pursuits such as downhill skiing. A dozen years ago,. he took his Harley to Sturgis for the famed South Dakota Black Hills’ area bike rally in 2003. He had hoped to go back more recently, but that plan just didn’t work out yet and may not for awhile.
With his new duties as chief, both his spouse and any chance for such a trip are in adjustment mode while he takes on an altered workload. He said his wife, who works for state government, is supportive as he gears up for things like city budget decisions and deliberations, as well as moves to reorganize the department and bring on new technology — those latter two things in an effort to increase efficiency.
He already got approval from Carson City’s Board of Supervisors to do some reorganization, splitting things into administrative and operational sectors, and is moving ahead on the tech front with wi-fi and tablets in ambulances to cut time for both medical and documentation tasks. He said saving time in heart attack cases can save lives and improve recovery prospects. In addition, paperless forms can promote efficiency and cut errors.
Looking ahead, the new chief sees a time when his department of 60 sworn personnel must grow with the city, and more stations will be necessary, but he knows those imperatives are just moving onto his radar screen. Yet he doesn’t shrink from them, noting a study some years back said Carson City needed five stations rather than the three and unstaffed fourth it has currently. The fourth is staffed only in summer months.
“Then,” Schreihans said of the decade-old study, “they said we needed two more stations.”
He said that would require perhaps 25 more in staff to handle fire and emergency services calls.