Another Fire Chief Hails from Los Angeles

The city of San Luis Obispo is again taking its fire chief from Los Angeles.

John Callahan, a retired deputy chief from the Los Angeles Fire Department, will take over as the city's fire chief Nov. 1, as first reported on

City administrator Ken Hampian announced the appointment Tuesday.

The post was vacated in June by retired Los Angeles Battalion Chief Wolfgang Knabe. Knabe left after nearly three years as chief, saying he couldn't afford a home in the area. He's now chief of the Fullerton Fire Department.

Callahan, 56, and his wife, Lynne, have roots in the area, with family living nearby, according to a city press release.

"Lynne and I are excited about being active members of this wonderful community," Callahan said in the release.

He steps into the job as the city updates its disaster response plan -- and at a time when such plans are getting tougher scrutiny following the destructive hurricanes on the Gulf Coast.

Callahan isn't a stranger to emergencies. During his time in Los Angeles he oversaw response to the magnitude-6.7 Northridge Earthquake in 1994 and preparations for the 2000 Democratic National Convention, which brought more than 4,000 delegates to town. He also oversaw the implementation of a computer-aided dispatch system.

"We really landed a remarkably experienced fire professional," Hampian said.

Callahan will make between $94,225 and $117,800 annually. Hampian said Callahan's experience would likely push him to the higher end of that range. Knabe pulled in $117,000 a year.

According to news reports, the Los Angeles mayor's office was rumored in 1995 to have considered Callahan -- then an assistant chief for the city -- for the job of interim chief after former chief Donald Manning resigned amid allegations that the department squelched an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint and that Manning rented out city-owned property to a private company.

Callahan will be the first of several new faces to join San Luis Obispo. The city is looking for a new assistant city administrator and parks and recreation director.

Wendy George and Paul LeSage, who respectively hold those jobs, are retiring at the end of the year.

Leslie Griffy covers San Luis Obispo for The Tribune. You can reach her at

Distributed by the Associated Press