Chief Gregg Bratcher joined CAL FIRE from the private sector and three years later is assigned as the agency’s forester for the San Jacinto Mountains.

Bratcher attended the August Mountain Area Safety Taskforce and will lead it at the November meeting. He has replaced battalion Chief Bill Weiser, who is the new chief of the Cajalco battalion near Riverside.

While Bratcher went to school in Northern California at Humboldt State, he grew up in Orange County. While at Humboldt, he looked for a program that allowed him to enjoy the outdoors. He discovered forestry and fell in love with it.

His current assignment is not his first experience on the Hill. As a youth he camped at Hurkey Creek Park and fished at Lake Hemet.

After 16 years in the private sector, he left it in 2009 and found CAL FIRE, when he was assigned to the San Bernardino County area. As part of the Forest Care program, Bratcher traveled to the Hill to review projects. This renewed his connection here.

In Northern California, CAL FIRE is much more involved in the application of rules and regulations for implementation of the Forest Practice Act. In Southern California, Bratcher devotes more time to working with and educating the public about defensible space and safe and healthy forest, he said.

“Here it’s easier with scope and importance of the work,” Bratcher observed.

His priorities will continue to be fuel modification work and public education. “Kevin Turner [who preceeded Weiser as the Forestry Chief on the Hill] did a great job of preparing people,” Bratcher noted. “I want to take time to meet people.”

Some of the work will be in the Anza area and north to Garner Valley, he said. The priority will focus on finishing existing projects before starting any new ones.

Despite the dry spring and summer, Bratcher has not observed any major infestation of bark beetle. He has noticed more presence of the turpentine beetles. They attack the top of pine trees.

In response to a question about wearing a uniform daily, he replied, “I’m proud of it. My father spent 38 years as an Orange County fire captain.”