New director chosen for California state fire agency
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Fire-plagued California has a new state fire chief.
Joe Tyler, a 31-year veteran of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, was appointed Thursday to head a department struggling with drought- and climate-change-fueled conflagrations that in recent years have destroyed thousands of homes and killed dozens of people.
They include the 2018 Camp Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills that killed 85 people and virtually razed the northern town of Paradise.
Tyler’s appointment as Cal Fire director was announced by the office of Gov. Gavin Newsom and Friday was his first full day on the job.
He is the 22nd director in Cal Fire’s 137-year history and will oversee a statewide agency with a $3.7 billion budget and more than 9,600 employees who handled more than 535,000 emergencies last year, Cal Fire said in a statement Friday.
Tyler joined Cal Fire in 1991 as a firefighter with Cal Fire’s Shasta-Trinity unit in Northern California and most recently served as the deputy director of fire protection, Cal Fire said.
“I am honored to have been selected to lead Cal Fire and I look forward to serving the people of California while promoting the health and welfare of our employees,” Tyler said in a prepared statement.
Tyler was “instrumental” in helping Cal Fire obtain a new fleet of helicopters and C-130 air tankers to battle major blazes, Cal Fire said.
Tyler, 50, replaces Thom Porter, who retired in December following one of the worst wildfire seasons in state history, with blazes that raged over millions of acres of forest and brushlands. The Caldor Fire in the Sierra Nevada forced 22,000 to evacuate the resort town of South Lake Tahoe.
Porter announced he was leaving “with bittersweet feelings, balanced by deep pride” to focus on “family, aging parents, and self.”