CPF District 6 represents CAL FIRE, Local 2881.
The announcement of the death of longtime CAL FIRE President, Bob Wolf, was one of those moments when our history as an organization and our ideas for the future crossed paths. Bob, whose dad, Carl, was an early union member, represented a generational shift in the modernization of CAL FIRE. In Bob's short life, CAL FIRE emerged from a division treated as a stepchild in California's largest state agency to the third largest stand-alone fire department in the United States.
Incumbent with that newfound professionalism were advances in the wages, benefits and conditions under which our members worked. Bob Wolf, from his days as a local representative through his climb inside the union leadership, was an inspiring and integral part of that change.
Under his leadership, we witnessed the increased ability for the individual firefighter to be heard. Virtually every improvement on the job - staffing, equipment, working hours, active defense of members from arbitrary judgments, retirement benefits, pay scales, campaign outreach, a public image that included an historic name change for the Department, safety programs, consistency in uniforms, honor guard and a long list of other accomplishments - happened during Bob's lifetime and under his watch.
Statement from President Mike Lopez on the death of President Bob Wolf:
It is not an exaggeration to say that Bob Wolf dedicated his entire life to CAL FIRE and the union he led for more than a decade. Nothing contradictory existed in the way Robert Theodore Wolf handled his responsibilities as a firefighter first and later as a union president. He took everything personal and began and ended every day with the question of what should he be doing next to enhance the wages, benefits and conditions of the membership of CAL FIRE Local 2881.
Bob's beloved father was a lifetime firefighter who lost his life early to a cancer traced to the chemicals he handled on the job. A generation ago, firefighters and their families worked such incredible hours that they lived in department housing and Bob was brought home from the hospital to spend his first years in a fire house. His dad taught him two truths: never do anything less than your best when wearing a firefighter's uniform; and understand that every improvement a firefighter has realized on the job was because of the union.
The decision to run for President of the union did not come without a great deal of local experience and the support of his region. A mentor on the job and in the union, Bob inspired union activism at a high level among the firefighters with whom he worked. He did the grunt work in his early years, became a director, a leader on the executive board and a popular president who Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger liked to say gave him needed counsel on public safety issues.
His relationship with governors was an important reason that at a time when severe budget cuts were taking place, the CAL FIRE budget was enhanced and year-round staffing was put in place in Southern California. Bob sat personally with California governors and top staff to help lay out the staffing schedules that justified augmentations for staffing and infrastructural needs.
A man whose energy matched his size, Bob also subscribed to the sacrosanct ideal that union policy is generated from field. He directed Aaron Read & Associates to move legislation that would change the name of the Department to CAL FIRE. Like so many of his colleagues, Bob was tired of the disconnect between our duties as a full service fire department and a name that suggested a limited mission.
Although the Department opposed the name change, and there were groups that thought the name change diminished the other areas of responsibilities, the bill was passed and, after meeting with the Governor, the bill was signed. Bob worked closely with Director Ruben Grijalva and the name change was quickly incorporated.
Bob would have been incredibly honored that both of the presidents of CPF with whom he worked were among the mourners at his memorial service. He worked closely with Dan Terry and Lou Paulson and shared a professional and personal friendship with them. Like all great union leaders, they sometimes disagreed, but they never forgot the ultimate goal was protecting the members they represent.
IAFF General President, Harold Schaitberger, remembered Bob as a powerful union force and a special friend. He recalled the two days he spent with Bob on a wildland fire as one of the great adventures of his life.
Local 2881 gathered together to grieve Bob's passing and remember him as an individual who changed and shaped lives. His loss was felt from the new members fresh to the profession to the Board he helped mentor as young firefighters and now serve in a leadership capacity. His remarkable personality, outgoing, funny and dynamic when he needed to be, compassionate almost always, steady and trusted, made a difference in the way thousands of men and women protect their communities and, subsequently, live in retirement.
Robert Theodore Wolf. He was a giant.