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Santa Monica Hires Interim Fire Chief

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By Lookout Staff

May 21, 2021 -- Wolfgang Knabe, Manhattan Beach's interim fire chief, will take over Santa Monica's Fire Department while the City searches for a permanent chief.

Knabe -- a 40-year veteran of fire service who retired in 2018 -- will leave the Manhattan Beach post on June 4 after serving nearly a year, City officials said.

He will replace Santa Monica Fire Chief Bill Walker, who announced last week that he would leave the department on June 4 to be closer to his family in Texas.

Knabe will take over on an interim basis on June 10 and hold the position while the City conducts a nationwide search and a new City Manager, who has yet to be hired, picks a permanent chief.

“We are fortunate that Chief Knabe will bring his two decades of leadership experience as a Fire Chief to Santa Monica this Summer,” said Interim City Manager Lane Dilg.

“Chief Knabe’s extensive knowledge and relationships within the Santa Monica Fire Department and across other Southern California agencies together with our strong Santa Monica Fire Department team ensure continued excellence in our fire services during this interim period,” Dilg said.

Knabe joined the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 1980 following a tour of duty with the US Marine Corps, City officials said.

After 22 years of service with LAFD, he served as San Luis Obispo’s fire chief from 2002 to 2005. That year, he became Fullerton's Fire Chief, and in 2011 served as Fullerton/Brea’s fire chief after the two city's merged.

Before retiring from the post in 2018, Knabe also served as a Reserve Police Officer with the LAPD for 16 years, seven assigned to the Department’s SWAT Team.

“I hope to be able to continue the great work of Fire Chief Bill Walker while the City searches for a new Fire Chief,” said Knabe.

“I have seen firsthand the quality of the men and women of the Santa Monica Fire Department and am looking forward to working with them to make sure the department, the community, and the City's needs are met,” he said.

As Santa Monica’s Interim Fire Chief, Knabe will lead a team of 134 firefighters and staff and manage a budget of $46,326,372.

A nationwide recruitment led by The Hawkins Company will begin in June, City officials said.

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