A 32-year veteran of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) is set to become Cathedral City’s next fire chief, city officials announced Monday.
Michael Contreras will assume the duties of Fire Chief John Muhr, who is retiring in mid-October after a dozen years with the city.
“I’m confident we’ve found the right leader for the Cathedral City Fire Department,” said City Manager Charlie McClendon in a prepared statement. “Michael’s experience and leadership skills are obvious, but he’s also a proven relationship builder and collaborator who recognizes the current challenges and opportunities that come with being a fire chief in the 21st Century.”
Contreras has been a member of the executive leadership team at OCFA, which serves 23 cities and the unincorporated areas of Orange County. OCFA is a full-service fire and EMS agency that serves 1.9 million residents over a 587-square mile area. In 2021, the agency responded to more than 161,000 incidents.
In addition to overseeing nine fire stations, Contreras is also credited with successful succession planning, performance management, and the implementation of employee mental and physical wellness. During a 32-year career with OCFA he has held multiple positions, including training officer, recruit academy instructor, academy fitness coordinator, academy coordinator, department safety officer, hazardous material specialist and assistant public information officer.
In Cathedral City, Contreras will oversee a 45-person staff and an expected annual Fire Department budget of $13.8 million. In 2021, the city’s fire chief earned about $246,000 in total pay, which included $194,000 in base pay.
The appointment of Contreras leaves one fire chief vacancy to fill in the valley. Palm Springs Fire Chief Kevin Nalder resigned in August. His replacement has not been named.