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Image of Madera County Supervisor and Chief Matt Watson
Thank you, Chief Watson (fourth from left), for your many years of dedicated service and leadership! Enjoy your retirement!

CAL FIRE Madera Division Chief Matt Watson to Retire

MADERA COUNTY — Whenever you see a sign that says “THANK YOU, FIREFIGHTERS,” it’s a person like Division Chief Matt Watson from CAL-FIRE’s Madera Division whom they are thanking. Matt is retiring from his service in Madera County at the end of 2022.

Image of Matt Watson.

Division Chief Matt Watson.

Matt was honored with a Certificate of Recognition by the Madera County Board of Supervisors. He will be greatly missed, but with his years of superb leadership, Madera County will be a safer place to live.

Some Highlights of Chief Watson’s Career
  • Matt began his fire service career in 1992 as a Paid Call Firefighter (PCF) in the County of Merced at Dos Palos Wye Station 75.
  • Image of the CAL FIRE logo.In 1994, Matt officially joined CAL FIRE as a Firefighter I at the Coulterville Station. He became a member of the Hazardous Materials team in 1996 and is still a member.
  • Matt was promoted to Fire Apparatus Engineer (FAE) in 1999 and was assigned to the Merced Division, Hilmar Station 95. As an FAE, Matt also held temporary assignments in Training, OES, and Fire Prevention Education.
  • Image of the California Office of Traffic Safety logo. In 2004, Matt was promoted to Fire Captain at Station 81, where he participated in many programs such as DL-170 testing and Crash Rescue. He was responsible for the Merced Division Service Center and its budget. During this time, he wrote a successful Office of Traffic Safety grant, funding new rescue equipment.
  • Image of firefighters putting out a fire.

    Image by Jose Conejo Saenz.

    In 2006, Matt transferred to the Coulterville Battalion, working at the Hornitos and Catheys Valley stations. He was assigned to Fire Prevention in 2007, where he was responsible for the PRC 4290 program in Mariposa County.

  • In 2010, Matt moved into the Pre-Fire Engineering position and was part of building the new Strategic Fire Plan for the Unit. While assigned to Fire Prevention and Pre-Fire, Matt was a member of the Safety Committee and functioned as a Safety Officer for the Unit.
  • In 2011, Matt was promoted to Limited Term Battalion Chief and filled the Mariposa Battalion position. He was then moved to the new Safety Battalion position until accepting a permanent position as the Madera Valley Battalion Chief in August 2012.
  • Image of a firefighter putting out a fire.

    Image by Imran Mughal.

    He remained in that position until October 2015, when he chose to move into the Administrative Battalion position to mentor under Chief David H. Allen, who retired in December 2017.

  • Chief Watson has worked on many assignments as the Administrative Battalion Chief overseeing training, the PCF program, grants, budgets, contracts, MOUs, and development agreements in Madera County.
  • Matt was appointed Division Chief CAL-FIRE Madera Division Operations in June 2018 and served both the county and city of Madera until December 2022.

Related Story: Matt Watson is New Assistant Fire Chief for Madera County

Some Additional Highlights
  • As Liaison for Incident Command Team 6, Matt oversaw State, County, and City fire resources. He managed a budget of $30M, directed over 200 firefighters, governed 23 fire stations, and controlled 75 pieces of fire apparatus.
Image of firefighters putting out a fire.

Image by Benedict Rottmann.

  • Matt managed construction of two new fire stations, increasing pay and logistical support for paid call firefighters, and replacing emergency vehicles as required.
  • He oversaw effective management and mitigation of emergencies, ensuring that emergency response personnel and equipment were response ready.
  • He supervised the entire administrative program, preparing and monitoring multimillion-dollar budgets, hiring, training, assigning personnel, and developing and implementing fire prevention and safety programs.
  • As Division Chief, he managed operations of five CAL-FIRE state forest fire stations, overseeing 82 firefighting personnel and maintaining ten engines, one dozer, multiple tractors, and five transport vehicles, with a budget of $9.7M.
  • Image of a firefighters putting out a car fire.

    Image by Hermann Kollinger.

    He replaced 14 engines, eight water tenders, three ladder trucks, and six support vehicles, as well as adding six automatic aid agreements to improve regional fire protection.

  • As Assistant Chief (Fire Chief for the City of Madera), Matt managed operations for three city stations, overseeing 28 employees and maintaining six fire engines, one ladder truck, one UTV and three support vehicles, with a budget of $7M. He also successfully increased staffing by 50%.
  • As Assistant Chief (Fire Chief for the County of Madera), Matt managed operations for 15 fire stations with 29 fire engines, ten water tenders, and two ladder trucks, overseeing 51 full-time and 70 paid call/volunteer firefighting personnel and nine support staff with a budget of $12M. Successfully increased daily staffing by 183%.
  • As Liaison Officer, Matt served as the point of contact for agency representatives for an Incident Management Team.

When Matt was asked what his future holds his response was, “Being in public safety is in my blood and I plan on continuing my service to others, maybe in the private sector.”

Wherever Matt decides to serve they will be blessed with a great leader.

Matt Watson (center) in 2018 with wife Tessa to his left, mom Lynda Espino and her husband Henry, with Madera Co. Supervisors and Cal Fire Unit Chief Nancy Koerperich (far left).

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