With more than 30 years of firefighting experience, Michael A. Contreras has been selected as Cathedral City’s newest fire chief. Contreras, a 32-year veteran of the Orange County Fire Authority, was one of a six finalists selected to interview for the position through a national search conducted by Bob Murray and Associates.
“After a comprehensive national search, I’m confident we’ve found the right leader for the Cathedral City Fire Department,” said City Manager Charlie McClendon. “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 the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), which serves 23 cities and the unincorporated areas of Orange County, California. 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.
During his 32 years with the Orange County Fire Authority, Contreras has been an integral leader when it comes to succession planning, performance management, employee mental and physical wellness, along with managing a variety of emergency management challenges. He currently manages the day-to-day operations of a large, diverse geographic division serving more than 247,000 residents. Contreras is also responsible for oversight of nine fire stations who respond to more than 20,000 calls each year.
Contreras has held many different assignments for the OCFA, including training officer, recruit academy instructor, academy fitness coordinator, academy coordinator, department safety officer, hazardous material specialist and assistant public information officer and is a member of the department’s urban search and rescue (USAR) team. He will succeed current Fire Chief John Muhr, who is set to retire Oct. 13, 2022, after 12 years with the Cathedral City Fire Department.