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San Diego Fire Chief Announces Retirement After 35-Year Career

Javier Mainar, October 2009.
Javier Mainar, October 2009.

San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar announced Thursday he will retire in two months and that Assistant Chief Brian Fennessy will be his successor.

Mainar, who became chief six years ago, said at a news conference he will step down Nov. 12 after a 35-year career with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Before he became chief, he directed operations during the 2007 wildfire that tore through Rancho Bernardo.


After his promotion by then-Mayor Jerry Sanders, he had to guide the department through recession-era belt-tightening, which included removing fire engines from stations on a rotating basis to save money.

The practice was stopped as municipal finances improved, and the city has been working to improve fire coverage in underserved neighborhoods.

"My tenure as chief has been a challenging and rewarding experience," Mainar said. "The success Fire-Rescue has enjoyed in protecting our community was made possible only by the support our department has received from our elected officials, the city leadership team and the many city departments that support our missions."

Mayor Kevin Faulconer tapped Fennessy, who joined the department in 1990 after previously working for the U.S. Forest Service. He currently is in charge of emergency operations, and is credited with strengthening the SDFRD's helicopter firefighting.

"Passing the baton to Chief Fennessy is one of the easiest decisions I've had to make as mayor," Faulconer said. "He has unmatched experience and operational knowledge of the Fire-Rescue Department and his leadership through the years proves he's the best choice with a strong El Nino predicted and what is now a year-round fire season."


The 56-year-old Fennessy's appointment will go before the City Council for confirmation.

"I am truly humbled to have been named by Mayor Faulconer as the successor to fire Chief Mainar upon his retirement," Fennessy said.

"The mayor's decision to stay within the department speaks volumes for the job Chief Mainar has done and the direction that has been set for the department," Fennessy said. "I appreciate the mayor's confidence in me and am prepared and eager to lead the men and women of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department successfully into the future."

The 38-year veteran was a former hotshot member and leader for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. In his current position with the SDFRD, he oversees all 48 fire stations and their personnel, emergency medical services, special operations and city lifeguards.