IN MEMORIAM: Fire Chiefs Perry and Prather

Fire chief in uniform, in front of UC Davis firetruck
Fire Chief Joe Perry

UC Davis and its Fire Department are mourning the loss of two retired chiefs: Joe Perry, who died March 20 in Napa; and Charles Prather, who died Feb. 13 in Chico.

Perry, 68, served as the UC Davis fire chief from 2004 to 2010, after retiring as chief of the Napa Fire Department. He had a 38-year career in the fire service, in the cities of Newark and Union City (both in Alameda County), Napa (where he served as chief for 13 years) and at UC Davis. “The entire fire service family thanks you for your service,” the Napa Fire Department said on its Facebook page.

UC Davis Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht, who succeeded Perry, said on his department’s Facebook page: “He made his mark on the California and national fire service. He was a servant leader, devoted husband, proud father and friend to many.”

Firefighters pose with trophy, in front of firetruck.
Charles Prather, front row, center.

Prather, 89, began his affiliation with the UC Davis Fire Department as a student firefighter and would go on to have a 35-year career in the department, the last 30 as the campus’s first paid fire chief — a three-decade tenure that was one of the longest of any chief in California, Trauernicht said.

Prather earned a degree in animal science in 1952, then, as an Army reservist, served on an ocean-going tugboat out of Fort Eustis, Virginia, for two years. He joined the Fire Department as a captain upon his return and became chief five years later.

In retirement, he and his wife, Clista, lived aboard their 49-foot Grand Banks trawler, Shilo, for 27 years before settling in Chico. Their travels at sea took them from Alaska to Panama, through the Panama Canal and up to Maine and back to Mexico.

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