Wolfgang Knabe Appointed as Interim Santa Monica Fire Chief

Former LAFD and LAPD officer to replace Chief Bill Walker

By Sam Catanzaro

Wolfgang Knabe, a former Marine, LAFD firefighter and LAPD SWAT officer, will join the City of Santa Monica as the Interim Fire Chief starting June 10, 2021.

Chief Knabe, a 40-year veteran of the fire service retired as Fullerton/Brea’s Fire Chief in 2018 and in July of 2020, came out of retirement to lead the Manhattan Beach Fire Department as Interim Fire Chief, rounding out nearly a year of service on June 4th.

“We are fortunate that Chief Knabe will bring his two decades of leadership experience as a Fire Chief to Santa Monica this Summer,” said Interim City Manager Lane Dilg. “Chief Knabe’s extensive knowledge and relationships within the Santa Monica Fire Department and across other Southern California agencies together with our strong Santa Monica Fire Department team ensure continued excellence in our fire services during this interim period.”

Knabe joined the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 1980 following a tour of duty with the US Marine Corps. After 22 years of service with LAFD, he served as San Luis Obispo’s fire chief from 2002 to 2005. Chief Knabe retired as Fullerton/Brea’s Fire Chief in 2018, serving Fullerton since 2005 and both cities since 2011 when they merged to become one department. Prior to retiring, Chief Knabe also served as a Reserve Police Officer with the LAPD for 16 years, seven assigned to the Department’s SWAT Team.

“I hope to be able to continue the great work of Fire Chief Bill Walker while the City searches for a new Fire Chief,” said Knabe. “I have seen firsthand the quality of the men and women of the Santa Monica Fire Department and am looking forward to working with them to make sure the department, the community, and the City’s needs are met.”

As Santa Monica’s Interim Fire Chief, Knabe will lead a team of 134 firefighters and staff, and manage a budget of $46,326,372.

A nationwide recruitment led by The Hawkins Company will begin in June.

On May 11, Chief Bill Walker announced he will be departing his post of five years to head up the City of Bedford Fire Department in Texas. Walker has served as Chief of the Santa Monica Fire Department since 2016.

SMFD Chief Bill Walker.

According to Walker, another factor behind the decision was to be closer to his family.

“For the last five years it has been my honor to represent Santa Monica as the Fire Chief. This is an amazing place, and I am extremely proud of all the accomplishments we have made together,” Walker said upon his decision to leave. “My two kids are both in the Dallas Fort Worth area and graduating college soon, so we are excited about the opportunity to be reunited in Texas.”

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