Historical Review

CAL FIRE LOCAL 2881 1938 – 2012

Minor Accomplishments

This information in this review was obtained from numerous sources including the California State Library, union records and conversations with some of those personally involved. If there are omissions for certain periods of time it was unintentional.


May 12-14, 1938

At a statewide rangers’ meeting in Sacramento, the first association of employees was formed and officers were elected to form a board of directors. Two of the issues important at that time were setting the salary of the rangers at $215 to $275 a month and establishing a policy for the wearing of uniforms. They ended up with a salary range of $160 to $200.

Oct. 13, 1940

Seasonals (crewmen) were being paid $35 a month with no days off. The board of directors wanted to have fewer seasonals but pay them more- $100 per month. They wanted truck drivers and foreman to get $125 a month. The pay remained at $35 for crewmen, $55 for truck drivers, and $65 for foremen.

Cecil Metcalf was president from 1939 through 1942. There are no records for the period 1942 through 1955.

Old CDF District 4 and 6 were the leaders in organizing their chapters. Dues were 50 cents per month and used mostly as a flower fund.

The salary for a forest fire truck driver (engineer) in 1957 was $341 with a top step of $436, with no paid overtime and a 120-hour duty week.

In 1959 the salary for a forest firefighter foreman (captain) was $436 with a top step of $530 and still no paid overtime and a 120-hour duty week.

The most serious effort to establish a statewide organization began in May of 1966 in Fresno with the election of State Director Leonard Van Wormer, Alternate Director Chuck Griggs, and Treasurer Ralph Sandifer.

In the years prior to collective bargaining, any improvements in benefits were accomplished largely through legislation, and it would take from two to four years to educate enough members of the legislature to get something passed.

The following highlights are just that. It would be impossible to list each and every accomplishment. No one individual should be given credit for the great gains made over the years. It was always a team effort and certainly none of it would have happened without our legislative advocate, our legal staff, and especially our office staff.


1966 – Presidents Leonard Van Wormer & Chuck Griggs

  • Organization of the California Division of Forestry Employees Association (CDFEA) into a statewide organization.
  • A convention was held later in the year in Sacramento. During 1966 we were allowed to collect dues via payroll deduction, which were $1 a month. Ron Bywater and John Upton were asked to do a membership drive. They used vacation and CTO, and received no reimbursement for travel expenses. They covered the area from Porterville to the coast and north to the Oregon border. They were very successful and by the next year had 1,500 members on payroll deduction.

1967 – Presidents Mike Wood & Jerry Pedro

  • Quarterly newsletter.
  • First legislation for 2/0 staffing.

1968 – President Andy Creeks

  • Lobbyist Lock Richards hired.
  • First request for 96-hour duty week.
  • Set MQs for FAE at nine months as seasonal.
  • In 1968 we had a statewide vote for an increase in dues of 50 cents making our dues $1.50. This increase would allow us to hire Lock Richards full time.
  • The first reduction in the duty week came in 1968 with a 96-hour duty week for all employees except seasonals.

1969 – President Bill Crookshanks

  • Withdrawal from social security.
  • By 1969 our salary had increased to a top step for forest fire truck driver- Range B (ERP) $436 and NERP $395

1970 – President Ray Caldwell

  • Retirement age reduced to age 55 and moved from miscellaneous to safety.
  • Dues increase to $3.
  • Also in 1970 the City of Sacramento went on strike, something we were forbidden by law to do, and then Governor Ronald Reagan ordered CDF personnel to staff city stations and equipment. For a bunch of wildland firefighters we did an outstanding job, though no one was happy about being strikebreakers.

1971 – 72 President Bud Armstrong

  • 84-hour duty week for all fire suppression classes.
  • 106-hour duty week for State Forest Ranger I (Battalion Chief)
  • 72-hour workweek vetoed by Gov. Reagan.
  • First cash overtime pay up to 40 hours of CTO.
  • CDFEA kills department of Fire bill.
  • First uniform allowance.

1973 – 74 President Don Banghart

  • 12.5% salary increase.
  • 15% bonus for fire mission (had been 10%).
  • Credit towards retirement for unused sick leave.
  • Informational pickets in Orange County by wives.
  • Get 12 hours CTO for each weekend day worked – was 8 hours.
  • President Banghart testifies in Washington D.C on FLSA.
  • Successful in getting State Forester Lou Moran reinstated.

1975 – 76 President Hank Weston

  • CDF gained department status.
  • Amador Plan started.
  • Hired Ron Yank.
  • Fought to keep fire captains and engineers out of supervision ranks.

1977 – President Wayne Dunham

  • 72-hour duty week.
  • Seasonals get uniform allowance.

1978 – 79 President Bob Beilage

  • Life insurance for seasonals.
  • First informational pickets in Sacramento.
  • Unit determination process started.
  • Lost Orange County contract.

1980 – President Vic Weaver

  • Political Action Committee (FIRES) established.
  • CDFEA hires Aaron Read.
  • First attempt to rename Department of Fire Forestry.

1981 – 82 President Ray Snodgrass

  • PERB ruled in our favor – CDFEA exclusive representative.
  • 96-hour duty week for SFR I (Battalion Chief).
  • Affiliation with IAFF and CPF.
  • NO confidence in director press release on Capitol steps.

1983 – 88 President Dan Nichols

  • Retirement improvement 2.5% at age 55.
  • Ruling that Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to us.
  • Department name change to Department of Forestry & Fire Protection.
  • Retirement credit for ERP half time.
  • Health study on wildland firefighters.
  • Motel policy.

1989 – 91 President Ron Bywater

  • Purchase of our first office building.
  • Fire Apparatus Safety Task Force- brake testing.
  • Richard J. Ernest Scholarship Fund established.
  • Personal exposure recording.
  • Retirement- highest single year.
  • Fire Prevention Officer (FPO) FLSA lawsuit started.

1992 – 93 President Dennis O’Brien

  • 80% retirement max.
  • FPO FLSA settlement – $1.5 million.
  • Rubidoux & Coachella post retirement health benefits.
  • Started firefighter memorial.
  • Fought off numerous takeaways – Governor Wilson years.
  • Pension Protection Initiative.
  • Purchased townhouses.

1994 – 1998 President Woody Allshouse

  • Name change from CDFEA to CDF Firefighters.
  • 3/0 staffing.
  • Stopped cuts in department.
  • Honor guard established.
  • 85% max retirement.

1999 – 2002 President Tom Gardner

  • 90% max retirement.
  • Two MOU’s = 50%+ improvements in benefits and health.
  • Purchase of second union office building.
  • Change to blue uniforms.

2003 –2012 President Bob Wolf

  • 3% at age 50 retirement.
  • Year-round staffing in Southern California at 3.0 (36 engines).
  • $10 million augmentation for engine replacement plus $17.5 million per year additional 3 years of augmentation at 4.0 staffing.
  • Three budget cycles w/no layoffs. PY count increased.
  • Several new Schedule A contracts.
  • Comprehensive training program for union officers.
  • Conversion of BC’s to rank and file.
  • Complete rewrite of operating policy, including Boilerplate for chapters and districts.
  • Department reference name change to CAL FIRE.
  • FF I work week reduced from 96 hours to 72.
  • Supervisors’ retention and recruitment bonus.
  • Cash-out lawsuit – overall increase to our buyout in excess of 30%. Special thanks to Ken Hale & Kevin O’Meara.
  • Numerous budget battles for CAL FIRE.
  • New cooperative agreements with Placer County Fire, City of Soledad, City of  Norco, Half Moon Bay, Point Montara, San Miguel FPD and City of Paradise.
  • Reversed furlough program recommended by the governor.

2012- 2018 President Mike Lopez

  • Name change from CDF Firefighters to CAL FIRE Local 2881.
  • Proposition 32 was defeated.
  • Worked to protect San Bernardino Chapter from jurisdiction attacks.
  • Mary Maulhardt retires and Wendy Powell is hired.
  • Building relationships with IAFF locals in California.
  • Rick Swan hired by IAFF to spearhead a new Wildland Firefighting and Safety response program.
  • New cooperative agreements with San Miguel, Paradise, Garden Valley and Julian/Cuyamacca.
  • Instituted Family Liaison training.
  • 2nd union store opened – 2 Hot Active Wear.
  • Furthering communication through Flash Point Media and other current social media venues.
  • The Fire Front – established a bi-monthly electronic newsletter.
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