Barry Fox can handle himself under pressure.


The newly appointed North Desert Division Chief for the San Bernardino County Fire Department once worked as an air traffic controller for the United States Navy.


"I still tell people that was the best job I ever had," Fox said Wednesday, in his half-unpacked office in station 302 on Olive Street in Hesperia. "I knew every day that I'd be busy."


After leaving the Navy, his firefighter brother urged him to join him in the service, but Fox was content as a grocery store meat-cutter until the workers almost went on strike, and the newly married Fox was looking at the prospect of not being able to pay the mortgage on his new home. So, in 1984, the former air traffic controller became a firefighter, seeing it as a stable career move.


"Going into fires is one of the funner things we do, as politically incorrect as that is," he said. "That's one of the downsides of the jobs I've had the past five years," in management, after blowing out his knee.


Now, his job is to oversee more than 300 personnel scattered among more than 20 stations.


"My responsibility is to oversee all those folks, make sure they get what they need."


The North Desert Division stretches from the Cajon Pass north to the Kern County line and Nevada state line, west to the Los Angeles County line and east to the south desert division border. It excludes Barstow, Victorville and Apple Valley, each of which has their own fire department.


Fox replaces Division Chief Tim Wessel, who is now the county fire department's Operations Chief, based out of headquarters in San Bernardino.


Residents aren't likely to see any dramatic changes in fire service under Fox, at least not immediately.


"It's too early to say. Chief Wessel did a great job and had a good relationship with the [client] cities," he said. "I'm sure there will be tweaking, because that's my management style."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star