A veteran Cal Fire supervisor with several decades experience on the fire lines and in management started work Wednesday as the new chief of the Riverside County Fire Department.
The appointment of Shawn C. Newman was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, based on a recommendation by Cal Fire administrators.
“It is truly my honor and privilege to return to Riverside as the fire chief and support the men and women of Cal Fire and the Riverside County Fire Department who respond to and serve the communities within Riverside County each and every day,” Newman said.
He takes over from interim Fire Chief Dan Talbot, who has headed the department since mid-January, when then-Chief John Hawkins was relieved of his duties without explanation by Cal Fire. Hawkins had been in the position since the summer of 2006.
The county has contracted with the state for fire and paramedic services over the last seven decades.
According to Cal Fire, Newman has been an employee since 1989, when he signed on as a seasonal firefighter in San Bernardino County. In 1992, he transferred to western Riverside County as a full-time firefighter.
In 2001, he was certified as an apparatus engineer, remaining in the Inland Empire, where he eventually laddered up to fire captain, overseeing operations at the Bautista and Norco conservation camps, officials said.
He became a battalion chief in 2012, and in 2016 was promoted to assistant chief at Cal Fire’s Southern Regional Office, ultimately supervising the Southern Region Operations Center.
Newman was named deputy chief of operations at the center in 2017 and was assigned to handle counties’ contracts that same year.
His appointment was reviewed by the board in closed session on several occasions. Details regarding what issues were raised and what questions were asked of the new fire chief were not disclosed.
The supervisors, especially retiring Supervisor John Tavaglione, have complained for years that Cal Fire has unjustifiably hiked its administration fee on an annual basis, forcing the county to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars more to the state each year.
More than 1,000 Cal Fire firefighters are deployed to stations countywide. The county also contracts with 21 cities to provide fire protection services.