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SAN CLEMENTE : Fire Chief Granted Disability Retirement

Fire Chief Jim Knight, who had been on a paid medical leave for the past 11 months, has been granted a disability retirement retroactive to Aug. 1, city officials announced Thursday.

Knight, 48, was hired as chief of the San Clemente Fire Department in January, 1991. He had previously served more than 20 years with the San Bernardino Fire Department, where he had moved through the ranks to become deputy fire chief.

In 1982, he received the Firefighter of the Year award and in 1989 was awarded a governor’s citation for exceptional achievement in the field of emergency services.

But his tenure in San Clemente was not without controversy. In 1992, during a time of city budget problems, members of the San Clemente Firemen’s Assn. took a vote of “confidence” in Knight’s ability to lead the department.

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Gene Begnell, who has been serving as interim chief during Knight’s leave, will continue in that position, City Manager Michael W. Parness said. Begnell has been with the department since 1986.

The city, for the time being, will not be seeking a permanent chief or replacement for Begnell’s previous administrative position, Parness said.

City officials are presently developing a master plan for the future of the Fire Department. That study is due in late December.


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