Dan Stefano, the Costa Mesa fire chief, is surrounded by his daughters, Sofia, 9, left, Sicily, 4, center, and Siena, 7, as he signs the Oath of Allegiance for Public Officers and Employees after being sworn in on Tuesday. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / December 3, 2013)

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Costa Mesa's newest fire chief took the oath of office Tuesday morning in City Council chambers.

When asked by the city clerk if he'd swear to uphold his duties, Chief Dan Stefano answered with one word: "Absolutely."

Stefano, an 18-year veteran of the Laguna Beach Fire Department, ends a period of more than three years when the Costa Mesa Fire department was led by interim chiefs.

In October, City CEO Tom Hatch selected Stefano, who had been promoted in 2012 to fire marshal and division chief in Laguna, from a pool of 52 applicants.

City officials Tuesday said Stefano would bring a new era of stability to a department that has undergone a transformation in recent years and survived the possibility of being dissolved in favor of county services.

"All of us are going to be looking to him for leadership and support," Hatch said, calling Stefano's hiring a reason for Costa Mesa to celebrate.

Stefano replaces Fred Seguin, who became interim chief when Tom Arnold, a veteran Newport Beach fire official, left the position in June.

Kirk Dominic started the string of temporary leaders, taking the position in October 2010 when Chief Mike Morgan retired after three years at the helm.

The City Council assigned Arnold the task of developing a money-saving restructuring plan after council members decided against contracting with the Orange County Fire Authority for service in 2012.

In May, the council approved the restructuring, which eliminated a fire station and reduced the number of staff on duty at any given time. It's expected to save about $1.8 million and roll out through 2014.

Tuesday's swearing in will likely shift the focus away from the interim chiefs' work, Hatch said, but, "the reality is it is really vital to moving us forward."

Seguin, who joined the Costa Mesa Fire Department in 1985, said times have changed dramatically since then, when "money flowed" to the department.

With a plan and new chief in place, the department can begin to settle in, according to Seguin, who will stay on as deputy chief.

"This is a new era for us, and challenges will be out there, but we've had support from top to bottom," he said, noting the efforts of

department staff, from firefighters to battalion chiefs.

"If it wasn't for that support, this organization wouldn't have survived the last three years."

Before his three daughters pulled him away to play on a nearby ladder truck, Stefano said the department's endurance is a testament to its employees.

"This is a world-class city," he said after his swearing in. "This is a world-class fire department."