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Morongo’s Fire Chief Retires After Long, Distinguished Career

 

Kevin Gaines spent 40 years in fire service, including the last six leading the
Morongo Fire Department.

MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION, Calif. – After serving six years with the Morongo Fire Department, Fire Chief Kevin Gaines has hung up his helmet, marking the end of a distinguished career that began 40 years ago in CAL FIRE, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians announced this week.

Morongo Fire Department Engineer / ALS Coordinator Jason Carrizosa has been named the new chief. Carrizosa, an 11-year veteran of the department, is a Morongo Tribal Member and grew up on the Morongo Reservation.

Morongo Fire Engineer Jason Carrizosa has been promoted as his replacement.

“Working for Morongo has been extremely fulfilling and I’m very proud of the strides that the Morongo Fire Department has made over the past six years with the support of a Tribal Council who is very committed to advancing public safety,” Gaines said. “I will miss the members of my department and the many tribal members I have come to know over the years. I know Jason will do an amazing job as the department continues to move forward.” 

Gaines spent 34 years with CAL FIRE before joining Morongo Fire in 2015. At Morongo, Gaines helped strengthen the Advanced Life Support (ALS) and paramedic programs, brought on new state-of-the-art firefighting equipment and oversaw the department’s response to major incidents all across the San Gorgonio Pass, including the 33,000-acre Apple Fire in 2020. Under Gaines’ leadership, Morongo firefighters helped battle destructive wildland fires across California, such as the Woolsey Fire, Carr Fire and Camp Fire.

Gaines was integral in cultivating the tribe’s strong mutual aid relationships with surrounding emergency service agencies in addition to directing efforts to protect Morongo residents and the tribe’s environmental, cultural and economic resources during emergency incidents.

We are truly grateful to Chief Gaines who served Morongo with the highest levels of professionalism and demonstrated extraordinary leadership, expertise and compassion during critical incidents,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin. “As we wish Chief Gaines the best in his well-earned retirement, we are excited to welcome our new fire chief, Jason Carrizosa, who will continue to grow the department’s legacy for protecting life and property across the region.”

A Banning High School graduate, Carrizosa holds an undergraduate degree in business and marketing from Culver-Stockton College in Missouri, where he played collegiate baseball. He played rookie ball for the Kansas City Royals before returning home and graduating from Moreno Valley College’s fire academy.

“Having grown up on the Morongo reservation, it means the world to me to accept this position, which will allow me to protect the safety of my fellow tribal members and our neighbors in surrounding communities,” Carrizosa said. “I have some big shoes to fill, and I have immense respect for everything Chief Gaines accomplished to strengthen our department. I intend to continue along that path.”

The Morongo Fire Department, which was formed in the 1950s as a team of volunteer firefighters, is now made up of 24 full-time staff. From its inception, the department has responded to emergencies on the reservation, as well as in neighboring cities and across California.