Kim Zagaris, or Chief Z as some call him, is the State Fire and Rescue Chief for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES); he was appointed on April 1, 2001. He admits his appointment rattled cages, nerves and even a few careers. He’s not only survived the highly political position, he’s succeeded. In this episode (#48) of All Hazards Chief Z reflects on his storied career, the changes he’s seen at Cal OES and in the business of putting the wet stuff on the red stuff, and what he’s learned.
Prior to his appointment, he was the Assistant Fire Chief for Cal OES with assignments in Region I, II, III, IV and V since 1987. He started his career as a Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) seasonal firefighter in 1977 and promoted through the ranks of the local, state and federal fire agencies to the State Fire and Rescue Chief. Chief Zagaris has extensive background in fire service, emergency management, and homeland security which includes working with local, state, federal and international agencies over the last 40 years.
As the State Fire and Rescue Chief, Chief Zagaris serves as the Executive Coordinator for Cal OES Fire and Rescue Services Advisory Committee/ FIRESCOPE Board of Directors. The Board provides a State level forum for addressing Statewide Mutual Aid, Incident Command System, Multi-Agency Coordination, Resource Typing, Training, Certification, Safety, Standardization and Fire Protection issues of statewide concern. Chief Zagaris is responsible for managing the FIRESCOPE Program, California Incident Command Certification System, the California Fire Assistance Agreement, State Assistance for Fire Equipment Program, as well as, serve on numerous state and national committees, associations and programs, including Cal OES representation on the California State Strategic Committee on Terrorism, the California Wildfire Coordination Group, the National Fire Protection Association 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, he currently chairs the International Fire Chiefs Associations (IAFC) Emergency Management Committee/ National Fire Service Mutual Aid System, the National Fire Service Incident Management System Consortium. He is the past chair of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Mutual Aid/ Resource Typing Project Team, and a past member of the National Incident Management System ICS Competencies Change Management Board, and the National Wildfire Coordination Group/ Urban Interface Working Team.
The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services owns 114 all-risk Type I Fire Engines, 40 Type III Fire Engines, 12 Water Tenders, 6 Communications/ Support Units, 13 Swift Water Rescue Caches, 12 Type II Hazardous Material Unit and manages California’s 8 Local/State/National Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces in cooperation with those sponsoring agencies. Chief Zagaris is responsible for several major program elements including the day-to-day management of the California Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, which includes over 1,100 fire agencies, and some 55,000 professional and volunteer firefighters that operate approximately 6,000 fire engines Statewide.