In this episode (# 57) we talk with Mike Mohler, Deputy Director of Communications for CAL FIRE. In his current role, as well as his prior position as Battalion Chief at Southern Region, Mike has worked many of California’s biggest wildfire disasters, historical ones at that. He talks about why there is no longer a “fire season” and how wildfires really are different from those just a few years ago. He discusses the challenges fire agencies have with the numerous factors contributing to year-round fires including fuels, drought, tree mortality, climate change and wildland-urban interface. He also addresses wildland management, the importance of firewise communities, local government and community engagement, defensible space and thinking completely differently in order to mitigate future deadly mega-fires, and so much more.
As mentioned, Mike Mohler is currently the Deputy Director, Communications, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Mohler began his fire service career in 1991, as a reserve firefighter in Orange County, assigned to the heavy equipment and crew division.
While working as a reserve, he attended the Santa Ana College fire science program and worked full time as a firefighter for Boeing’s Aeronautics and Missile Systems Division in Anaheim. Mike began his career with CAL FIRE in the San Bernardino Unit as a Firefighter I in June 2000.
In May 2001, Mike promoted to Firefighter II in the Riverside Unit and in 2005, he promoted to Fire Apparatus Engineer. In 2010, Chief Mohler promoted to Fire Captain in the San Diego Unit. In 2015, he promoted to Battalion Chief at Southern Region, where he worked for the next 3 years supervising the Southern Region information and communications programs. Mike was vital in continuing to build the Department’s nontraditional media exposure with projects such as Netflix’s Fire Chasers and Extreme Weather with National Geographic which has showcased our department worldwide.
Chief Mohler participates on several statewide cadres and working groups, including S-420, CIMCI and AAIMS. He holds several qualifications, including Advanced All Hazard Incident Commander from the University of Texas A&M, and has been assigned to a CAL FIRE Incident Management Team for over 11 years. He currently holds a seat on FEMA’s advisory committee for response to large scale incidents. In addition to his Departmental assignments, Chief Mohler has also served as an Honor Guard member for over 17 years, honoring our fallen and supporting their families. Mike is currently enrolled in American Military University’s Emergency and Disaster Management program.
Thanks for the great interview and episode Shawn and Michael. I learned a lot and have much greater appreciation for wildfires now. Thanks for your work to put out the messages to the public through this podcast and the Netflix show while you are also putting out the fires! Great stories here.
Paradise was not the only community affected. The fire destroyed most of Concow before it reached Paradise. My son and his fellow Volunteer Firefighters in Concow lost almost everything while they were escorting trapped people out of Camelot, getting burn victims to medical help, and checking houses for residents. Most of the people in Concow, Yankee Hill, Pulga, Big Bend are very conscientious about defensible space. You’re right – there was no stopping this fire.