A little over a year ago, the La Tuna Fire consumed more than 7,000 acres in the Verdugo Mountains — the largest wildfire to break out in the City of Los Angeles in the last 50 years, raging through the Glendale and Burbank foothills as well as L.A.’s Sunland-Tujunga region. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Jerry Brown both declared states of emergency.
In Glendale, not a single structure was lost.
That’s a point of enormous pride for Woodbury alum Greg Fish, outgoing Glendale fire chief and the newly-appointed head of the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District in Santa Barbara County.
“At the base of any community worth living in is a desire to be safe,” Chief Fish says. “Carpinteria-Summerland citizens want to know that their fire department will be there when they are experiencing emergencies or other difficult times. I intend to bring a high level of community involvement to my new position and make sure that the CSFD understands how important strong community ties are. That is something in Glendale that has been a mainstay.”
Chief Fish, brings 31 years of fire service to his post, all of it in Glendale, L.A. County’s fourth-largest city. His department served some 205,000 residents and responded to more than 19,000 incidents within the city and nearby jurisdictions. “My tenure as Glendale chief has been a wonderful adventure,” he says. “I gained the post by proving to the community and city council that my direction was one with community priorities.”
An L.A. area native, he got to know the inside of a firehouse at an early age. “My father was a fire captain for LAFD, and his lifestyle of service was always something I wanted to duplicate,” he says. Greg earned a B.A. in Organizational Leadership from Woodbury and a Master of Public Administration from Cal State Northridge. “Woodbury’s Organizational Leadership was critical for me as a leader,” he recalls. “In particular, I was privileged to learn about servant leadership and how effective leaders can bring the most out of a team. Many things I learned at Woodbury I use on a daily basis. Formal education helped me prepare for the transition from the firehouse to the office. I’ve accepted that my role as a firefighter is no longer in directly dealing with day-to-day emergencies.” Still, he says, “a fire chief is never fully unplugged.”
While he’s leaving Glendale behind, Chief Fish has family in Santa Barbara, so the move looks to be a smooth one. Hitting the ground running is likely to be an imperative, given the devastation of past Indian summers. That said, in terms of fires and fire-fighting, there’s little respite.
“The new normal is that we no longer have a defined fire season — fires burn all year now,” Chief Fish says.“ The public has a huge part in this new normal. The best thing the public can do is help us by maintaining a defensible space in wildland urban interface areas. Brush clearance is a critical component to the safety of any community.”