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New Chief Climbs Aboard at Height of Fire Season

Chief Valdez

Chief Valdez

Edward Valdez stepped into the position of Laguna Beach fire division chief and fire marshal this week, a post vacant since December when Dan Stefano left to become chief of the Costa Mesa Fire Department.

The responsibilities of a fire division chief include enforcing the California Fire Code and overseeing inspections of every business in the community. Valdez will also be consulted during development proposals, plan reviews and site inspections, issuing final approvals and conducting follow-up inspections.

The fire marshal’s duties also include managing the city’s 14 fuel modifications zones, where vegetation is removed to create defensible space for firefighters, and supervising the use of goats.  Fire department administrators would like to expand these zones and work has already begun on the process. About 550 parcels in the city need annual maintenance to comply with weed abatement requirements.

Additionally, the fire marshal supervises the on-duty firefighting force of 12 firefighters.  He responds to emergency incidents and serves as the incident commander, where he coordinates fire fighting or rescue efforts.

A resident of Dana Point with 31 years of firefighting experience, Valdez most recently served as a command staff officer for the Los Angeles Fire Department working in their training, dispatch, and emergency medical services units.  His last assignment was in the Glendale and Pasadena area, bordered by foothills that mirror the dry scrub conditions found in the canyons of Laguna Beach. Although he has not previously worked with goats to clear such areas, he says that using goats “is the greenest way to go.”

Valdez who describes himself as a recent “empty-nester” is currently working on a master’s degree in organizational leadership, which he says will be very useful for public safety and administration duties. Valdez says he feels fortunate to have been hired locally. The shorter commute “is a blessing for my whole family,” he said.

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