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Menlo Park fire district chief returns to work after paralyzing fall

About nine months after a catastrophic fall, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman is back on the job, he told the Almanac on Jan. 6.

The chief tumbled off a ladder while doing yard work at home in May. After a months-long stay at the hospital, he left in a wheelchair, unable to walk and with one hand limited to partial use.

He met with district representatives during the past several weeks to sort out any needed adjustments in the workplace, including the provision of a vehicle modified for his use. The chief will put in about four hours a day for the first two weeks of his return, then discuss any schedule changes with the board.

"Returning to work for this great organization and community is both an honor and a privilege that I don't take for granted," he said. "I look forward to continuing to contribute to the fire district's important public safety mission and the fire board's strategic objectives."

Schapelhouman, 52, was hired in 1981 and has been chief for about the past seven years. The MPFPD serves Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and portions of unincorporated San Mateo County.

"I want to express the board's admiration for Harold and his determined efforts in recuperating, his perseverance and his willingness to return to the job," said Board President Rex Ianson in a press release. "The District's focus is on first responder emergency response, fire suppression, fire prevention and code enforcement. As always, our outstanding staff will continue to ensure that our day-to-day operational decisions are made in the best interest of the communities we are proud to serve."

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