Chief John Hawkins honored at SoCal Foresters & Fire Wardens conference

After his scheduled presentation he was surprised with gifts and was recognized for his service

Chief John Hawkins retired honored
Chief John Hawkins was honored by the Southern California Foresters and Fire Wardens for his 55-year firefighting career. Photo by Joy Collura.

Former CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins was honored last month at the annual meeting of the Wildland Fire Training and Safety Conference put on by the Southern California Foresters and Fire Wardens at Yukaipa, California. Chief Hawkins retired on Christmas Day in 2018 after his 55-year fire career. As Fire Chief he directed a cooperative regional fire protection district with 97 fire stations, three fire camps, one air attack base, and 1,600 personnel, responding to over 160,000 emergencies over a large unincorporated county area and 21 partner cities. He also supervised the CAL FIRE resources that provide services under contract to Riverside County, the 4th-most populous county in California and the 11th-most populous in the United States.

After his presentation at the conference about the key elements of leadership and the importance of mentoring successors he was surprised to be honored and presented with gifts, including a chromed double-bit axe.

Some of the topics from Chief Hawkins’ talk explored day to day human factors that firefighters are exposed to, such as stress, PTSD, suicide, and their supervisors, but most were about the characteristics of a good leader of firefighters. Used with his permission, below are 10 images that I selected from his 114-slide presentation at the conference:

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Chief John Hawkins presentation

Happy trails, Chief!

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+

9 thoughts on “Chief John Hawkins honored at SoCal Foresters & Fire Wardens conference”

  1. Super guy! An incredible asset to public service. My sincere congratulations to John. I think we may all fall just a bit short of his magnificent contributions.

  2. Chief Hawkins is a fantastic leader of fire fighters. His style is effective and entertaining. I spent a career trying to be as effective as John and fell way short. Here is a cheat sheet to help when working with people that will help you understand his success:

    1. Use their name.
    2. Express sincere gratitude.
    3. Do more listening than talking.
    4. Talk more about them than about you.
    5. Be authentically interested.
    6. Be sincere in your praise.
    7. Show you care.”

    John,
    It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down. All that matters is you get up one more time than you were knocked down. Stay involved, we need you.

  3. Chief Hawkins is my hero! I have never met anyone more dedicated to and passionate about their profession, their organization and to quality leadership. Chief Hawkins’ legacy of service and commitment to firefighting and his troops is unmatched. May his retirement be filled with good health, great happiness and long life!

  4. I considered John a mentor to me, even though I never told him. I can’t describe to you all the wonderful times we had in the Butte Unit and on incidents up and down the State. I, often failing, tried to emulate his organization in both my office and on incidents. He had a smile for everyone, knew their name, and was sincerely interested in other people. The bottom line is that he loves firefighters. How many other chief officers would stand on the sidewalk and salute a strike team of engines on the road? John set an example to everyone. And he made me laugh so hard that I will never forget him. Congratulation, Chief, on your award. Our times were THE BEST.

  5. My wife said, “wish my father was still here to see you join the retired club, as compared to the 5% club”. Gary was your fan even though he was a mentor for you too.
    I Remember the days in your classes at Butte College, you were an outstanding instructor and made learning fun, but the lessons stayed with me. Wish you and your family all the best and hope retirement treats you well. You had a career that many wish they could have had, the respect from the troops they wished they had, and people that would follow you knowing you had their best interest at heart.

  6. Chief Hawkins is a one of a kind person & boss. I’m blessed that he was one of my last bosses before I retired. The atmosphere was the best in my whole career under his leadership and I got to take a lot of his wisdom with me when I left. I Loved my job & I’ll never forget him and many others there! Congratulations Chief! The Admiral

  7. Some selected leaders act above all they see. Just seeing John Hawkins smile when he was introduced, let all know he is there to help. When Cal Fire invited Idyllwild to form the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council John made us all feel at ease. I remained on the board of directors for seventeen years before my retirement. Because John’s introduction as well as all interactions was easy, he remained in my thoughts. That is still my feeling. I wiish him all the best. That means interacting with others just like him.

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