The new Director of CAL FIRE addressed climate change — 9 years ago

CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter
CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter taking the oath of office. CAL FIRE photo.

The new Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had strong feelings about climate change before that was cool. (And some people still deny climate change, the moon landings, and they think the Earth is flat.)

Thom Porter was appointed Director of CAL FIRE by Governor Gavin Newsom on January 8, replacing Ken Pimlott who retired December 15, 2018.

In 2009, ten years after he began working for CAL FIRE, Mr. Porter was featured in a 90-second video produced by Greenpeace USA in which he talked about how climate change was affecting wildland fire.

Below is a partial transcript from the video:

As a firefighter I’m a student of the weather, and I’ve noticed that there’s a change that’s occurred in the last several years.

CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter
Thom Porter as he appeared in a 2009 video.

These patterns are not what I have grown up with. They are also not what I have seen in the historical record. We’re starting to see more monsoonal type of weather that’s causing more dry lightning which ignites fires — sometimes thousands of fires in a 24-hour period. We’re stretched for resources when that happens. We don’t have enough fire engines and aircraft to take care of all those fires.

California has a very diverse economy. A lot of it depends on water. If the climate changes and we don’t have the water we need to support that business or the people who live here, we could see all of society start to have to move out of certain areas. California could dry up and blow away.


Before his appointment by the Governor, Chief Porter had served as Chief of Strategic Planning in CAL FIRE’s Sacramento Headquarters since January 1, 2018.

Prior to his CAL FIRE career, Chief Porter worked as a forester in the timber industry in Washington, Oregon and California, developing timber harvesting plans, planning and directing prescribed burns, and managing company safety programs.

He signed on with CAL FIRE in 1999 as a Forester I in the Forestry Assistance Program at the Southern Operations Center. He eventually served as the Southern Region Chief, Assistant Region Chief, and San Diego Unit Chief.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in forest management from the University of California Berkeley and is a Registered Professional Forester.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

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