Laguna Beach pins badge on new fire chief

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Laguna Beach Fire Chief Niko King recites the oath of office at Laguna Beach City Hall on July 5, 2022. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Fire Chief Niko King raised his hand and repeated the oath of office administered by City Clerk Ann Marie McKay, officially joining the Laguna Beach Fire Department on Tuesday.

With the Council Chambers filled with city employees, community members, and senior public safety leaders from as far away as Pasadena and Anaheim, King received his fire chief badge from City Manager Shohreh Dupuis. His girlfriend pinned the badge to his uniform before they exchanged a kiss.

“I realize that I step into this position. I can take an oath that I promise to carry out the duties. I can put the badge on but I have to earn trust from all, from the community to members who wear the uniform every day. And that’s probably the best part of the job. I get to do that one relationship at a time,” King said.

A Corona del Mar resident, King enters the Laguna Beach Fire Department at a critical time. Laguna Beach has already endured two major wildfires this year. An in-house ambulance team relieved Doctor’s Ambulance crews after 25 years of service on Friday.

Laguna Beach Fire Chief Niko King and Police Chief Jeff Calvert on July 5, 2022. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Laguna Beach fire inspectors are also tasked with enforcing a new state law that requires home sellers to either bring their landscaping into compliance with defensible space rules or get buyers’ commitment to complete the work within a year of closing escrow.

With over 28 years of experience with fire agencies, King has all the desirable qualities Laguna Beach leaders had sought. As deputy chief of operations for the Sacramento Fire Department, he was responsible for overseeing training and administration.

Dupuis also placed huge stock in King’s experience in managing natural disasters in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He was involved in a strike team that answered a nationwide response to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

During the 2018 Camp Fire, King commanded the Sacramento Regional Incident Management Team while it was tasked with running the Emergency Operations Center for the Town of Paradise. The team was assigned to the Center for 14 days and before it was relieved by the County of Butte, King said.

The Emergency Management Mutual Aid (EMMA) program that King joined was instrumental in the immediate response to the most destructive fire in the state’s history, said Colette Curtis, a spokesperson for the Town of Paradise.

“Without the help of knowledgeable and experienced EMMA personnel, like Chief King, the successful response and eventual recovery of Paradise would be in serious doubt. We at the Town of Paradise will be forever grateful to Chief King and his fellow EMMA workers for their time and effort to help us in our time of need,” Curtis wrote in an email Wednesday.

A group of city officials including then-mayor Bob Whalen, then-city manager John Pietig, and retired fire chief Mike Garcia visited the town of Paradise to learn what didn’t work. The City Council later modeled significant portions of its wildfire mitigation and fire safety plan based on takeaways from that trip.

“We’re really excited to have you onboard to help us battle all of those emergencies and really prepare our town and make sure we don’t have a disaster in our town,” Dupuis said to King on Tuesday.

As Dupuis introduced King on Tuesday, a voice boomed from a public safety employee’s radio.

“Uh oh, he may have to actually respond now. He can’t leave though because I still have his badge,” Dupuis joked, earning laughs from the audience.

King said he’d already met about half of the Department’s employees by Tuesday and looks forward to meeting the remainder and employees from other departments in the coming days.

Fire Chief Niko King poses for a photo with family friend Allen Eager during his badge ceremony on July 5, 2022. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
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1 COMMENT

  1. Congratulations from Maryland Chief King. You may be 3000 miles away from us but we send our best wishes on your new job.

    Your brothers and sisters on the East Coast.

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