An interim chief was named to take the reins at a Peninsula fire agency that leads a task force of a nationally recognized search and rescue team while the head of the fire district recovers from a back injury.
Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman is recovering from injuries sustained while doing yard work at his home last weekend.
The Menlo Park Fire Protection Distict’s board of directors voted in Douglas Sporleder, the chief who preceded Schapelhouman, at a special meeting Thursday, according to fire district President Steve Nachtsheim.
Sporleder will begin his new position Monday.
The former chief of the Santa Clara County Fire Department and Fire Marshal from 1982-2001, Sporleder has many years of experience as a fireman, Nachtsheim said. He was fire chief in Menlo Park in 2005 and 2006.
Sporleder was called on to step in after Schapelhouman took a substantial fall at his San Jose home, Nachtsheim said. Schapelhouman remained in the Intensive Care Unit on Thursday, where he was recovering from an 11-hour back surgery on Monday.
Nachtsheim, who last saw Schapelhouman on Wednesday night, said the chief still has a ventilator and a tube as a precaution but is very communicative with his hands.
“He’s a feisty one, he wants to know what’s going on.” he said. “He communicates with his hands and writes notes, so I have a lot of orders already.”
Nachtsheim said that there while there is no anticipated date of return for Schapelhouman, the board will meet again in closed session in June and evaluate the situation.
“We’re hoping he’s back by then,” he added.
The Menlo Park fire district sponsors California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 3 under the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The task force, which consists of firefighters from all over the Peninsula, is deployed to assist with national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
The fire district serves Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Atherton and some unincorporated areas of San Mateo County.
Schapelhouman joined the district as a firefighter in 1981 and has served as fire chief since 2006.