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New Fire Chief Same as the Old Chief

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By Lookout Staff

August 15, 2023 -- Santa Monica will replace departing Fire Chief Danny Alvarez with Wolfgang Knabe, the interim chief who held the post before Alvarez was hired a year and a half ago.

Knabe -- a 43-year veteran of the fire service who retired as Fullerton/Brea’s fire chief in 2018 -- will rejoin the Department on September 1, City officials said.

He previously served as Santa Monica’s interim fire chief from June 2021 to February 2022, between interim stints in Manhattan Beach and Beverly Hills.

Knabe will hold the post as the City embarks this month on a nationwide search for a permanent replacement for Alvarez, who is returning to Burbank to head its Fire Department.

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.

“Chief Knabe’s decades of leadership, knowledge about the Santa Monica Fire Department, and extensive relationships throughout the region will be invaluable during this transition,” City Manager David White said.

“I’m grateful to have him return as the City’s interim fire chief to ensure our Fire Department has a strong leader while continuing to provide excellent service to our community.”

Knabe will lead a department in Santa Monica of 122 sworn and 15 non-sworn personnel with an annual budget of $54.5 million.

“I’ve worked first-hand with the incredible women and men of the Santa Monica Fire Department and hope to continue the great work of Chief Alvarez,” Knabe said in a statement Tuesday.

“I am looking forward to ensuring that the needs of the department and the community are met as the City searches for a new fire chief.”

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