The new Bautista division chief is Bill Weiser. This division includes the Bautista Camp crews, Battalion 5, which is composed of the seven stations in San Jacinto and the Ryan Air Attack Base, and Battalion 11, which is the Hill from Anza and Lake Riverside to Poppet Flats. He is replacing Dave Fulcher.
Weiser is no stranger to this area. From early 2010 to August 2012 he served as Cal Fire battalion chief on the Hill.
“I’m excited. It’s a new challenge and going to be fun,” he said when asked how he feels about the new assignment. “I’m glad to be back working with all the people and agencies whom I worked with before. I learned how unique and important the mountain is and I’m happy to return.”
Although an Alabaman at birth, Weiser’s life experiences are thoroughly Californian. Son of a military man, he grew up in Fresno where his career with Cal Fire began in 1981. Since then he has climbed the ladder and touched each step on the way up — seasonal, engineer, captain, battalion chief and now division chief.
He’s a firefighter and admitted that at times he misses being near the flames and heat. But when battalion chief in the Cajalco area, he missed the multiple relationships of various fire agencies and organizations on the Hill.
“What I will do now is just as exciting a challenge,” he affirmed. “Lesson number one is maintaining and improving the relationships between all the different departments such as the Forest Service and Idyllwild Fire and the [Mountain Communities] Fire Safe Council and the community.”
As he settles into the new position, he is looking forward to re-engaging with the community and the various organizations that contribute and help with support. One of the major avenues enabling this engagement is the Mountain Area Safety Taskforce, which Weiser remembers well. He was MAST chief during his previous stint on the Hill.
The continuation of the drought and lack of precipitation has Weiser concerned. He easily remembers the Mountain and Silver fires of 2013, since he was assigned to both. He’s also aware of the new presence of the Goldspotted oak borer and the revival of bark beetle populations on the Hill.
“I’m worried about the bug kill coming back,” he stated. “The biggest concern is this would build the fire threat.”
But Weiser added that the additional staff and engines assigned to the Mountain Battalion will stay. “We are keeping them,” he affirmed.