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The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) announced today that veteran firefighter Derek Witmer, 46, will take over as chief of the Morgan Hill Fire Department as well as the state agency’s Santa Clara Unit. 

Witmer, of Watsonville, was appointed to the position by CalFire Director Ken Pimlott, according to CalFire staff. Witmer will replace Steve Woodill, who retired earlier this year. 

Witmer has 28 years of fire service, starting at the Salispuedes Fire District in 1985, where he rose through the ranks to Captain, according to a CalFire press release. 

In 1997 Witmer joined CalFire when the Salispuedes and Freedom Fire District merged to form the Pajaro Valley Fire District, CalFire staff said. Witmer has since worked for two CalFire units – San Mateo/Santa Cruz and Santa Clara. At CalFire, he has served in a variety of assignments including Helitack, the emergency command center, training and, most recently, as the South Bay Operations Chief. 

In 2012, Witmer served on Incident Management Team 5 as Deputy Incident Commander, the press release says. 

“Chief Witmer’s wide ranging experience makes him uniquely qualified to lead the Santa Clara Unit,” Pimlott said. “Derek brings proven leadership, cooperation and innovative ideas to the position, and will serve the community well.” 

In addition to Witmer’s responsibilities as Unit Chief and MHFD Chief, he will also serve as fire chief for the South Santa Clara County Fire District. 

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