From Volunteer to Chief

Dennis Bitters' 42-Year Firefighting Journey Sparks Community Legacy

Chief Dennis Bitters has dedicated 42 years to the Ripon Fire District, starting as a volunteer firefighter in 1982. He rose throughout his career to become the Fire Chief in 2003. Under his leadership, the District has provided efficient, high-quality service to a 56-square-mile area, including the City of Ripon. Notably, the District has been the sole ambulance transport provider since 1974, marking 50 years of service in 2024.

Chief Bitters is respected statewide for his expertise and accomplishments. He has served in various leadership roles during disasters and holds multiple certifications in firefighting and hazardous materials management. Additionally, he has been actively involved in professional organizations and community service, including serving on the Ripon City Council and various boards.

Bitters' family has been a pillar of support throughout his career. As he prepares for retirement at the end of April, he plans to spend more time with his family and continue serving as a volunteer firefighter. Reflecting on his journey, Chief Bitters expresses gratitude to his family for their unending support and looks forward to continuing his commitment to the community even in retirement. 

"That's where I started, that's where I'll finish. Maybe I'll make 45 years!" ~Dennis Bitters

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"My wife Carla and daughter Lauren deserve a lot of credit for years of support and understanding of my commitment to the community I served, as they often had to step back so I could do my job. In the end, I could not have been successful without the support they gave to me." ~Chief Dennis Bitters, Ripon Consolidated Fire District 

Sentiments from Community Leaders and Friends:

"Thank you for your exceptional leadership as Fire Chief of Ripon. Your dedication to maintaining essential services and ensuring community safety has been invaluable during tough times—best wishes for a fulfilling retirement."
Warm regards, 
Sheri Coburn, Chairperson of Ripon Consolidated Fire District 

"It has been quite a ride working together all these years. Now it's time to hang up your helmet and hitch up your trailer. Wishing you many years of good health and relaxation ahead."
Happy Trails,
Kathy Sikma, Ripon Fire District Administrative Assistant

"Congratulations on your retirement from Ripon Fire after 42 years of service! I'm so happy for you and Carla to be able to take off and enjoy some adventures finally! After all your years of service to the Fire District, I'm sure you'll enjoy a change of pace and scenery.
I consider it a privilege to work for Ripon Fire, and I want to thank you for allowing me to become involved with the Fire District in 2008, first as a volunteer in the front office and then as a full-time employee in 2015. I feel blessed to work for Ripon Fire and the wonderful people who work for the District.
Also, I will never forget how you and the staff honored my Dad and Mom with your presence at their Celebration of Life Services in 2010. That meant more than you will ever know.

Again, congratulations on your 42 years – this retirement is so richly deserved!"
~Brenda Lange, RFD Ambulance Biller/CQI Coordinator

"Twenty-seven years ago, Dennis and I ran for Ripon City Council. We became close friends. We spent holidays together, with his daughter Lauren joining us on trips to Washington DC and Disneyland. I'd attend sessions while my wife Mona and Lauren had fun. Known as Aunt Mona and Uncle Mike, we'd do anything for each other.

We celebrate the retirement of our beloved fire chief and honor his impactful legacy. His dedication to our safety and well-being has been inspiring. As he steps into retirement, his influence will endure.

Thank you for your mentorship and friendship. 

Congratulations on your retirement, Chief!"
Mike Restuccia, Ripon City Council

"On behalf of all of us at Valley Regional Emergency Communications Center (VRECC), we congratulate Chief Bitters on his retirement from Ripon Fire.
Chief Bitters was one of the initial chiefs involved in creating the Joint Radio Users Group (JRUG), the JPA that contracted with AMR for dispatch services in 2006. He has strongly supported public/private partnerships and our center since day one. He trained the first fire dispatchers, integrating his knowledge with our practices, which continue today. His development and continued support of processes and relationships between VRECC, JRUG, and San Joaquin County ensures that the communities we serve continue to receive exceptional service.
VRECC is immensely grateful for the unwavering support, guidance, and encouragement you have provided our center over the last 18 years."
Congratulations Chief!
Richard Silva, Valley Regional Emergency Communications Center

"On his inaugural fire call as a volunteer, I remember that he hurriedly dashed out half-dressed in the dead of night. Almost colliding with Cor Malipaard, a seasoned volunteer and neighbor, the incident sparked a perpetual race to the fire station down Second Street.

Years ago, amid a devastating house fire, Dennis witnessed a family lose everything, including a young boy's cherished toys. Moved, he donated replacements, only to later discover the boy was the fire's cause.

Recognized by the San Joaquin Board of Supervisors for his 17-year tenure as Mutual Aid Coordinator, Dennis faced realities far removed from TV depictions. As Chief, he balanced budgets, navigated changing boards, and upheld fairness amid union negotiations and crises like funeral planning for colleagues.

Since assuming the role in 2003, Dennis's integrity and dedication remained unwavering despite evolving fire service landscapes, reflected in our 42-year marriage. He tirelessly pursued what was right, even when unpopular, fostering top-tier fire and ambulance services."
Carla Bitters, wife of Dennis Bitters

"Congratulations, Chief Bitters! Your retirement is well deserved, moreover earned. Collaborating with you has been a pleasure to increase readiness and improve service. Your many years of experience and service in every role of your profession have led to a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that have served you well in your leadership roles with the Ripon Consolidated Fire District, Ripon City Council, and professional and community organizations. You will surely be missed by many, but I hope you enjoy this next chapter of your life called retirement."
Robert Rickman, County Supervisor, Fifth District