Ceremony: Alavarez’s wife Natalia pinned on his new Chief badge. Photo by Emily Sawicki

For the first time since May 2021, Santa Monica has a permanent fire chief.

On Tuesday, new SMFD Chief Danny Alvarez was sworn into office during a ceremony held at the new Santa Monica Fire Station 1 — the first time the public was invited to see the new station, which was completed in 2020. The new Chief beamed as he signed his oath of office certificate and as his wife Natalia pinned on his new badge.

“While the badge that was pinned on my chest today serves as a very proud moment, I also realize it serves as an acceptance of a tremendous responsibility and commitment to the members of the Santa Monica Fire Department and to the community that we serve,” Alvarez reflected in remarks following the swearing-in.

Alvarez came to Santa Monica from the Burbank Fire Department, where he worked for 25 years, rising from the ranks of firefighter to deputy fire chief. Prior to Alvarez, the last SMFD Chief was Bill Walker, who departed in May 2021 to take the helm of the Bedford Fire Department in Texas. Alvarez takes over from Wolfgang Knabe, who held the title of Interim Fire Chief since June 2021.

The ceremony was a homecoming of sorts; Alvarez was born in Santa Monica, though he was raised in the San Fernando Valley. Speaking during the event, City Manager David White mentioned that Alvarez was a surfer and said he hoped to learn a thing or two from the incoming Chief.

“He has served in every branch of the fire service,” White said of Alvarez. “This field is his passion. His deep commitment to lifelong learning along with diversity, equity, and inclusion stood out.”

White was one of a handful of local leaders who delivered remarks Tuesday, including Mayor Sue Himmelrich and retired SMFD Chief Ettore Berardinelli. A handful of dignitaries, including all seven members of Santa Monica City Council and Alvarez’s family, attended the ceremony, but the majority of those in the audience were firefighters. Dozens, including members of both the Santa Monica and Burbank departments, stood at attention to watch the swearing in.

During her comments, Himmelrich took the opportunity to praise the Fire Department, saying SMFD had a “rich legacy for setting a high benchmark for fire services.”

Himmelrich went on to mention the broad range of emergency services provided by the SMFD: a full time hazardous materials unit, an urban search and rescue team, a dedicated airport response company, and an accredited fire academy.

Himmelrich added that she felt Alvarez embodied the Department’s core values: integrity, compassion, teamwork, accountability and trust.

SMFD, which responds to about 19,000 calls per year, includes 136 personnel. The Santa Monica Fire Department currently has two deputy chiefs, a training chief, a fire marshal, and three battalion chiefs, with a total operating budget of $44,514,250.

emily@smdp.com