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L.A. County fire chief to retire in March

November 24, 2009 |  5:36 pm

Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman announced today that he plans to retire in March after nearly 21 years as head of the department.

As head of the county Fire Department, Freeman saw two of his firefighters die after the huge Station fire broke out in late August. The firefighters were killed when their truck plunged off a canyon road.

In an interview with The Times in September, Freeman said that local, state and federal authorities needed to come up with a plan to better protect vital communications areas such as Mt. Wilson, which was threatened as the Station fire burned out of control.

"We dodged a bullet," Freeman said.

In a report earlier this month, Freeman urged the Board of Supervisors to lobby federal officials to get the U.S. Forest Service to employ such tactics as nighttime helicopter drops to prevent wildfires from raging out of control. The agency has said that it employed the "best professional practices" in its response to the Station fire.

--Robert J. Lopez