Sierra Views: Cal Fire’s Lawshe ends career on high note

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat /

If the fight earlier this year against the Rim Fire was like World War II, the battle over Paper Cabin Ridge could be likened to the Battle of the Bulge.

Keeping the blaze from advancing past Paper Cabin was crucial, as it kept the flames from racing up the North Fork Tuolumne River canyon, toward Tuolumne township and communities along Highway 108 like Long Barn and Mi-Wuk Village.

And like the famous battle in Europe, Paper Cabin Ridge had its own fiery general who roused the troops with inspirational speeches.

Steve Lawshe, Cal Fire's incident commander on the Rim Fire, fittingly has recently garnered comparisons to Gen. George S. Patton.

"I knew just looking at the map that it was going to be bad if it got around Paper Cabin Ridge," Lawshe said this week. "The locals knew it too."

The 31-year Cal Fire veteran is retiring this week as a division chief with the local unit.

A lifetime of fighting fires was never a question for Lawshe, who started his career right out of high school.

His father was a Cal Fire career firefighter, and he moved around growing up because of it.

During his local tenure, he served briefly as the unit chief after Brian Kirk retired. He was also instrumental in building local volunteer programs which have been tougher and tougher for fire districts and departments to fill.

But he said his heart has always been in working in the field. He was often dispatched to wildfires around the state during fire season and continuously focused on training and recruiting. Lawshe even turned down a promotion that would have sent him to Sacramento working a desk job as an administrator.

"I'm just a fireman. I'm not a policy maker," he said.

While retirement will keep him off the engines, Lawshe said he will stay busy.

A hunter and fisherman, he enjoys trips to the Rockies and farther east for elk and white-tailed deer.

He also plans to work on his family's cattle ranch outside of Fresno.

Much of the time will also go to his wife, two sons and multiple grandkids, who all live in the Fresno area. And Lawshe also said he is interested in possibly volunteering in a mentorship program, something he has never done before.

But once a firefighter, always a firefighter, he said.

For the full story see today's Union Democrat.

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