After National Search, Michael A. Contreras Selected as Cathedral City’s Next Fire Chief

CATHEDRAL CITY — Michael A. Contreras, who will begin duties in October as this community’s next fire chief, told Uken Report he feels “honored.”

“The process that Cathedral City went through was intensive and comprehensive and to be selected amongst the group of highly qualified candidates is an honor,” Contreras said.

He will succeed current Fire Chief John Muhr, who is set to retire Oct. 13, after 12 years with the Cathedral City Fire Department. Contreras, with more than 30 years of firefighting experience, is a 32-year veteran of the Irvine-based Orange County Fire Authority.

He was one of a six finalists selected to interview for the position through a national search conducted by Bob Murray and Associates.

I do have a family that allows me to live my dream of being a firefighter,” Contreras said.

He and his wife, Michelle, have been married for 30 years; they have two children Michael Jr., a fire fighter with the Orange County Fire Authority, and a son Chase who is in property management.

Contreras said he brings to the job the following:

  • New perspective — The fire service is changing and consistently evolving, and I believe my perspective and experience allows me to come in and really look at what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it and ask is that still the best for the community we serve.
  • Leadership — The fire service and society are at a pivotal point and having the right leaders in positions to help develop the future leaders not only in the fire service but in community is key. Fire service and public safety has a responsibility to assist and develop people at all levels of the community.
  • Community involvement — as we have seen over the last two years with COVID the fire service is being called on to be a leader in society and be able to assist in all facets of a community from serving the public, developing our people, identifying areas that we can impact the quality of everyone’s life.

The opportunity to build on the foundation that previous fire chiefs have laid at Cathedral City excites him, Contreras said.

“The city has recently expanded the ambulance service and built a new fire station which I believe are key to serving the public in better ways,” he said.

“… I’m confident we’ve found the right leader for the Cathedral City Fire Department,” City Manager Charlie McClendon said in a 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.”

Mayor Ernesto Gutierrez said he wishes the new chief could have been hired from within but believes the “best person” was hired.

“He will be able to see the needs and new ways of doing things,” Gutierrez said of Contreras. “Both physically and operationally.”

Corey Goddard, a captain for the Cathedral City Fire Department and president of the Cathedral City Professional Firefighters Association, told Uken Report that he was “not yet” ready to comment on the new fire chief.

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. 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.

The job was advertised at an hourly wage of $83.59 – $109.41.












Image Sources

  • Mike Contreras: Cathedral City