CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter announces his retirement

Chief Thom Porter
Chief Thom Porter Oct. 28, 2019. CAL FIRE photo.

Chief Thom Porter announced Monday that he is retiring from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection after leading the agency for the last three years.

Porter was appointed acting Director of the Department by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on December 14, 2018. Three weeks later he was named Director by Governor Gavin Newsom.

He first started with CAL FIRE in 1999 after working as a forester since 1992 with private industry in Washington, Oregon and in the Sierra Nevada. The positions he held with CAL FIRE included the San Diego Unit Fire Chief, Assistant Southern Region Chief, and Southern Region Chief before becoming Chief of Strategic Planning in Sacramento Headquarters January 1, 2018.

The Associated Press reports that Porter took the blame in June for Gov. Gavin Newsom overstating the amount of land that had been treated with prescribed burns and fuel breaks. Newsom said 90,000 acres had been treated, when Capitol Radio first reported that the actual number was 87% less. Porter said his Department had done a poor job educating the governor and the public about its efforts.

Porter’s last day is December 10, a CAL FIRE spokesperson said. The Governor has not announced a replacement.

Porter is a 5th generation San Diego native who married his high school sweetheart and life partner Rebecca. They enjoy spending time with their two sons and their partners, and three family dogs, all of whom live in California. He said he plans to return to San Diego to focus on his family and aging parents.

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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.

4 thoughts on “CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter announces his retirement”

  1. Thanks Chief. No good time to say goodbye- or retire. Where are we at with the air tankers C-130’s? Any updates for CA. We need more air tankers in CA. What happened?

  2. Thank you Chief Porter for all you have done. I wish you all the best and a long and happy retirement.

  3. This is a loss for California. Chief Porter was an advocate for the expansion of CALFIRE’s science program and the funding of research projects and forestry education at institutions around the state. Additionally, he advocated for and oversaw greater mitigation work at the state level, primarily on private land. CALFIRE does not come close to getting everything right, but it certainly improved under the Chief’s leadership. I hope that the next appointee is as forward-thinking.


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