A new chief was inducted for the Amador-El Dorado Unit of Cal Fire on Monday.
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Mike Kaslin was given his new badge as unit chief by retiring Unit Chief Kelly Keenan, having effectively become the chief earlier that morning. A conference room full of peers, family and former unit chiefs bore witness to the induction.
“I think very highly of Mike and think it’s an awesome opportunity,” Keenan told the assembled firefighters, including Kaslin’s son Ben, a firefighter/paramedic in the San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit. “I affectionately call Mike my work spouse.” Kaslin was the deputy unit chief under Keenan. “It’s really cool that I get to do this,” Keenan said as he pinned the new badge on Kaslin.
Before the ceremony, Keenan noted that Kaslin was who he hoped Cal Fire management would pick as his successor. “I’m happy for Mike to take over,” Keenan said.
Former Unit Chief Bill Holmes, predecessor of Keenan and mentor to both Keenan and Kaslin, had the honor of pinning brass bugles to Kaslin’s collar. Holmes explained the number of bugles on the collar brass indicate, traditionally, who was in charge. The most experienced person wears the most bugles. Five bugles now represents the unit chief.
Kaslin was then presented an Incident Commander Trophy by Assistant Northern Region Chief Keith Larkin.
The new chief said it was 32 years ago that he “first put on the uniform,” and the job was “pretty simple back then” as an EMT and later medic. Kaslin became known as “the doctor on the fire engine,” later rising through the ranks as division chief for Growlersburg Camp and North Division Operations, then administrative officer for AEU, battalion chief for the Cameron Park Fire Department, the Camino Emergency Command Center and battalion chief for Structure Fire Training at the Cal Fire Academy in Ione.
After the ceremony, Kaslin said he has a “group of ideas and thoughts” that he is waiting to see how “they all play out.” He intends to “get to work” and hopes to further improve in the “era of positive relations” with local and federal government where firefighting is concerned, and to “ensure citizens are well taken care of.”