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City welcomes new Fire Chief

Mike Conway

Post Date:11/14/2016

New Fire Chief Wilkinson knows the City

Michael Wilkinson is no stranger to the Merced Fire Department having served twice as its interim fire chief and fire marshal. Starting Nov. 21, he will become the City's new fire chief.

Wilkinson is replacing Chief Shawn Henry who retired in September.

'Chief Wilkinson knows the City, knows the Department, knows our challenges and can hit the ground running,' said City Manager Steve Carrigan, who made the appointment. 'He can move the Department forward to become even better than it is, and coach and mentor future generations of leaders in the Department.'

'I'm really looking forward to coming back and working with the entire team in the City,'

Wilkinson said. 'I'm excited to take the group and move it forward and build up the Department so there is internal depth and create candidates for all the positions -- all the way up to fire chief.'

'I'm fortunate because I have a strong foundation to work with,' he said. 'And I am blessed to serve this community and provide them the best services in their time of need.'

As interim Fire Chief in Merced Wilkinson, 60, helped position the department to end brownouts, began a strategic plan for the department and assisted in recruiting a new fire chief.

Merced's new fire chief is bringing 35 years of firefighting experience to the job.

Wilkinson's career started as a volunteer firefighter and has included seven years as the Oakdale Fire chief. In Oakdale he oversaw the design and construction of a fire station and developed a budgeting plan to staff the new station. He created a partnership with local businesses to fund equipment for a confined space rescue team and devised a paramedic program that integrated fire paramedics with the Oakdale SWAT team.

He also has served as the Deputy Fire Warden for the Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services and the 2-1-1 Director for the United Way of Stanislaus County and the Mother Lode. Wilkinson was responsible for developing the emergency management plans for the UC Berkeley Center for Infectious Diseases, including programs on H1N1 and infectious diseases.

Wilkinson worked for the state Office of Emergency Services as the deputy chief in charge of the Fire and Rescue Branch in Sacramento. He oversaw urban search and rescue teams and has been deeply involved working in the command centers during major firestorms in the state.

The new chief was brought on as a mentor and trainer for the Department. He has provided training throughout the state for a variety of professional certified courses, and provided emergency management training for the State of Hawaii. He has been certified to teach emergency management classes by the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Fire Service Training and Education Program.

He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy and holds a certificate in business administration from the University of the Pacific.

In his spare time Wilkinson likes to head to the mountains. 'I love the Sierras, anything to do with the Sierras,' he said, whether it's hiking, fishing, camping, backpacking, or spending time in a cabin in the woods. 'I always have a smile whenever I'm in the mountains.'

He enjoys photography ' 'I'm an absolute amateur, but I enjoy it,' keeping his yard up, and following the Giants and 49ers, especially at home games. 'I have really gotten into model railroads,' he added, 'I built an in-scale model railroad at my home.'

'I have two grandchildren that keep me busy and happy. They always have something going on,' Wilkinson said.

Besides his grandchildren, Wilkinson has a son and two daughters. He and his wife, Rose, reside in Modesto.

The pay for a fire chief is $9,817.27 to $11,932.96 per month.

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