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Tackling state's worst wildfires, Cal Fire chief calls it a career after nearly three years as director

Thom Porter started at Cal Fire in 1999 and has since become the department's top official — until Monday when he announced his resignation.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The ashes were still settling from California's most destructive wildfire season in history when then-acting Cal Fire director Thomas Porter ascended to fire chief on Jan. 8, 2019.

Now after 20 years of service with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Porter is retiring to his hometown of San Diego — where he also once led the San Diego Cal Fire unit.

Addressed to his "CAL FIRE family," the veteran firefighter says he wants to focus on his family, aging parents and himself.

"With bittersweet feelings, balanced by deep pride for CAL FIRE and anticipation for the future, I will be retiring on December 10, 2021 from the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Office of the State Fire Marshal," Porter said. "You have been my home away from home."

The fire chief continued to face devastating wildfires throughout his close-to-three-year tenure, including 2019's Kincade Fire.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who appointed Porter as chief, said on Monday that residents were fortunate to have Porter's steadfast leadership guiding the state's preparedness, response and recovery efforts.

"I thank him for his over two decades of service with CAL FIRE and tireless work from day one of my Administration to protect communities across the state and implement our comprehensive forest and wildfire resilience strategy to tackle this existential threat head-on,” Newsom said.