Farewell to the Chief
FIRE PERSONNEL FROM all over the North Bay saluted as the casket of Schell-Vista Fire Chief Mitch Mulas was carried into St. Francis Solano Catholic Church Tuesday. See the video at sonomanews.com.
They came from Gold Ridge and Two Rock, from Marin and Monte Rio, from Occidental and Cazadero, from Napa County and Novato and from as far away as Diamond Springs. They came from more than 30 engine companies, almost 150 firefighters in dress blues, here to pay their respects and express their gratitude to Mitch Mulas, a man some of them never met but who left a legacy for them all to remember.
They overflowed St. Francis Solano Catholic Church, spilled over into Father Roberts Hall watching on a big-screen TV and some stood outside viewing another big-screen TV. Afterward, they formed a cortege of fire trucks stretching down Broadway as far as the eye could see.
The parents of many in attendance had not yet been born when a teenaged Mitch helped his father form the Schell-Vista Volunteer Fire Department. And among those who came to honor him, many grew up under his tutelage during the 40-plus years he served as Schell-Vista Chief.
He was described as a venerable redwood tree with roots deep in the community and a shadow that stretched beyond the Valley of the Moon and across the state. And besides the family he raised and loved on the dairy ranch where they all grew up, Mitch Mulas had another family of firefighters, generations of whom loved him like a father.
"It's been a family for a long time," said Schell-Vista firefighter and spokesman Adam Lobsinger, "We just hope we did the Chief proud."
Besides firefighters, the audience at the Mulas memorial represented virtually every slice of the community pie. From education (Mulas spent 12 years as a school board member), to agriculture (Mitch was on the Sonoma County Farm Bureau board for 35 years), to even auto racing (Mitch was the grand marshal at the 2008 Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway) people came to share their memories and their love for the man many called simply, "Chief."
"It was such a good showing," Lobsinger marveled, "it was a testament to the Chief's impact all over the Valley, all over the state, really. He touched so many people from so many walks of life."
Mulas died on March 31, at the age of 82, surrounded by family on the successful dairy ranch that was a perfect reflection of his life.