Michael Garcia, a long-time commander in the Long Beach Fire Department, will become the next fire chief for the city of Laguna Beach beginning April 30, the city administrator announced Friday.
With Garcia’s appointment, Laguna Beach city leaders have now tapped veterans of much larger departments in Long Beach to fill the two top jobs in public safety. Police Chief Laura Farinella, who started in March 2015, also previously worked in Long Beach.
Garcia’s 32-year firefighting career includes 20 years of supervisory and management experience in Long Beach. There, he held a range of command positions, including as acting fire chief, in the 510-person department of 22 stations in a town of 51.5 square miles. The department with a $101 million budget was expected to respond to 71,000 incidents in 2017, including 51,000 emergency medical responses, the city budget shows. Long Beach’s fire chief earned salary of $235,000.
Garcia was selected from a pool of 37 applicants, City Manager John Pietig said. None of whom were internal candidates, interim Fire Chief Kirk Summers said in a recent interview. Summers had succeeded former Chief Jeff LaTendresse, who retired last August.
Garcia will oversee a 42-person firefighting staff and four stations that respond to 3,800 incidents annually, 60 percent of them medical related, in a town of 9.8 square miles. The Laguna department’s budget is $11 million in the fiscal year ending June 30.
Garcia holds a Bachelor of Science degree in vocational education from California State University, Long Beach. His background includes expertise in the areas of fire operations, administration, fire prevention, emergency preparedness, staff training, and community relations, Pietig said.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of caring professionals, and I look forward to working with them as we plan for the future while continuing to provide excellent and responsive service to the community,” Garcia said in a statement.
Garcia will assume his duties on April 30 with a salary of $192,000 a year.