It is still not clear why CAL FIRE Chief was removed from position

CAL FIRE Chief John Hawkins
Chief John Hawkins speaking at the Wildland Fire Safety Summit in Pasadena, April, 2006. IAWF photo by Bill Gabbert.

Friday of last week news broke that John Hawkins, the longtime chief of the CAL FIRE Riverside Unit and Riverside County Fire Department, was suddenly removed from his position. There was no immediate permanent successor identified and he is being temporarily replaced by Deputy Chief Dan Talbot. Chief Hawkins’ firefighting career has spanned 54 years and he had been in his County Chief position for 12 years.

The local newspaper, the Press-Enterprise, published a story late Tuesday afternoon providing a little more information, reporting that it was a CAL FIRE decision, and not a move by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors:

“CAL FIRE made the decision that it was time for new leadership,” said [County Supervisor Kevin] Jeffries, a former volunteer fire captain. “There was no scandalous events that occurred, nothing exciting like that. It was just a leadership change that CAL FIRE felt was important and we were kind of kept in the loop a little bit. But it was a decision of CAL FIRE.”

Chief Hawkins was not only the Chief of the CAL FIRE units in Riverside County protecting state responsibility areas in the Southern California County, but he also supervised the CAL FIRE resources that provide services under contract to Riverside County, which is the 4th-most populous county in California and the 11th-most populous in the United States.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

6 thoughts on “It is still not clear why CAL FIRE Chief was removed from position”

  1. I think anyone that ever knew John, or had any work related association with him would tell you, “John is a stand-up good man.”
    It’s not my place to stick my nose into Cal Fire business at any level. But, the one word that keeps coming up, and disturbs me, is “suddenly.”
    Particularly in the case of a man that has given his all to the outfit, and firefighters from every agency.jw

  2. Yeah, no. I don’t buy this for a second. CALFIRE just doesn’t up and remove anyone, much less someone with the length of tenure this guy has/had.

    Something happened.

  3. Just a personal opinion here….The longer this goes without a reasonable explanation for Chief Hawkins’ removal, the worse the smell becomes. John has a base of supporters in the Fire World, that spans the country. Literally.
    He has been a premier leader, ambassador, spokesperson and mentor. He personally moved the “Fire Leadership” bar up many notches, and is responsible for much of the acclaim and recognition Cal Fire has garnered through the years.
    No matter how you slice it, or the reasons for it, he will not simply be “replaced.” His qualities are not available on any list of ingredients.J.W.

    1. Well said J.W. I’ve worked with him in Both Northern Cal and Southern Cal, He always said what he thought and everyone Knew what he said was load and clear, ….. It will be very hard to Fill his boots ……..

  4. I do not believe there will be a conspiracy uncovered. John is a straight up person. So honest it is almost painful. How about, Chief Hawkins is north of 70 years old and just leave it at that! He’s the kind of man with great integrity and maybe it is just time to make a change. It happens everyday in the corporate world. Until you walk in his shoes it is easy to criticize.

    1. I don’t believe there is a conspiracy either Steve. Perhaps very poor handling of the situation. Which in itself is unusual for Cal Fire, because no agency has a more well-oiled PR/media machine.jw

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