071620 Mb fire chief

Retired Brea/Fulleton Fire Chief Wolfgang Knabe is Manhattan Beach's new interim fire chief. (Orange County Register via courtesy of City of Brea).

Manhattan Beach has a new interim fire chief, Wolfgang Knabe, who's retired from an identical role in Fullerton and Brea.

Knabe, who begins Monday, July 20 replaces Police Chief Derrick Abell, who served as interim fire chief after Daryn Drum was fired three weeks ago for making comments viewed as insensitive.

The city wanted to relieve Abell of the double duty, said Mayor Richard Montgomery, but especially wanted a fire chief who could focus on the Fire Department during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Medical calls continue whether it's a pandemic or not," Montgomery said, "So you want to make sure leadership knows what they're doing."

Knabe retired as Fullerton/Brea's Fire Chief in 2018, serving Fullerton since 2005 and both cities since 2011 when they merged Fire Departments to save money.

He joined the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1980 and rose to battalion chief. He later served as San Luis Obispo’s fire chief from 2002 to 2005.

Having a fire chief who is familiar with Southern California, Montgomery said, is key for Manhattan Beach.

"We're fortunate we found someone who is from Southern California," Montgomery said, "Was a (fire) chief in Southern California and is willing to help us out while our search continues for a full time chief."

Knabe can work for Manhattan Beach only for so long as a retired fire chief, Montgomery said, or any city for that matter, and he may stick around until his hours max out or the city finds a full-time replacement.

This will be Knabe's first time dipping into those retired work hours, he added. Knabe will be paid hourly at $111.87.

The city aims to find a permanent fire chief within six months, Montgomery said.

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