News from around the Ojai Valley

Ojai firefighter McNeil promoted to assistant chief

web VCFD John McNeil
Photo courtesy Ventura County Fire Department
John McNeil, new assistant fire chief for the Ventura County Fire Department.

Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News reporter
A veteran firefighter from Ojai has been promoted to a high-level position on the Ventura County Fire Department's command staff.
John McNeil, a 30-year veteran of the department, was promoted to the position of assistant fire chief, Emergency Services Bureau. In that capacity, he’ll oversee VCFD’s fire stations, aviation unit and dispatch center.
According to a VCFD release, McNeil has extensive experience in urban search and rescue, wildland firefighting and human resources. He previously served as a battalion chief in 2013 and division chief in 2017.
McNeil succeeds Dustin Gardner, who was named deputy fire chief following the retirement of Vaughan Miller.
The department also promoted 30-year VCFD veteran Kelly White to its senior ranks. White will succeed the retiring Mike Milkovich as assistant fire chief of the Administrative Services Bureau.
Gary Monday, a former battalion chief and 30-year veteran of the department, will succeed McNeil as division chief for western Ventura County, including the Ojai area.
McNeil said his first major fire with VCFD was the Wheeler Fire in 1985. “That was the first big one, and, of course, it was in my hometown,” he said.
When the Thomas Fire broke out on Dec. 4, 2017, McNeil was one of the initial commanders on the scene. “My section of the fire was all the Upper Ojai. When the Koenigstein start happened about an hour after the original start, that’s what I managed,” he said.
A 1984 graduate of Nordhoff High School, McNeil graduated from Daniel Freeman Paramedic School. He holds an associate’s degree in fire science and is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in environmental management.
McNeil lives in Ojai with his wife and two children.