Cal Fire Unit Chief for San Bernardino Faces Misdemeanor in Fatal Collision

Unit Chief Tim McClelland, a resident of Beaumont, has been re-assigned to Cal Fire's Southern Operations Center in Riverside, Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson said Wednesday.

The Cal Fire Unit Chief for San Bernardino, Inyo and Mono counties has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in an Aug. 1 crash that resulted in the death of a Banning man.

Unit Chief Tim McClelland, a resident of Beaumont, was driving a Cal Fire pickup truck when he was involved in the three-vehicle crash on the 210 Freeway near Del Rosa Avenue, north of Redlands, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Gregory Kirwin, 48, of Banning, was fatally injured in the collision, which was reported just after 5 p.m. Aug. 1 on Interstate 210 west of Del Rosa Avenue, according to San Bernardino County coroner's personnel.

An amended misdemeanor complaint naming McClelland as defendant was filed Tuesday Feb. 26 in San Bernardino Superior Court.

McClelland has been re-assigned to Cal Fire's Southern Operations Center in Riverside, Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson said Wednesday. The acting unit chief for San Bernardino, Inyo and Mono counties in McClelland's absence is Rod Bywater, Hutchinson said.

How long McClelland remains re-assigned will be determined by how the case moves forward, Hutchinson said. Cal Fire has not conducted its own investigation of the crash.

"We don't want to interfere with the legal stuff, with the District Attorney and the CHP," Hutchinson said. "Once the judicial process is done, then if necessary or if warranted we would look into anything on our end. The law enforcement takes precedence."

Hutchinson said the crash and its aftermath have been difficult for everyone involved.

"It's been a tragedy for everybody involved since the day it happened to this week," Hutchinson said. "It's affecting so many people's lives."

McClelland was not on his way to a call when the collision occurred, Cal Fire spokesman spokesman Daniel Berlant said in a phone interview in August.

When CHP officers arrived at the crash scene they found three eastbound vehicles involved, a coroner's statement said.

Investigators with the CHP determined Kenneth Bietz, 51, of Yucaipa, was driving a silver 2003 Chevrolet Impala east on the 210, west of Del Rosa, and he was slowing due to traffic ahead, CHP Officer Mario Lopez said in a statement.

Kirwin was driving a red 2001 Ford Focus east in the same lane and was approaching the Chevrolet Impala at an unknown speed, Lopez said.

McClelland was driving a white Cal Fire 2005 Chevrolet 1500 pickup east on the 210 and he was in the process of moving into the same lane as he approached the red Ford Focus, Lopez said.

"McClelland's vehicle collided with the rear of the Ford Focus," Lopez said. "It has not been determined if the Ford Focus collided with the Chevrolet Impala prior to or after the collision with the Chevrolet 1500 pickup. Unfortunately, the male driver of the red Ford Focus was pronounced deceased at the scene."

Both Bietz and McClelland sustained minor injuries due to the collision, Lopez said.

McClelland's truck sustained "major damage," Berlant said.

The Cal Fire San Bernardino-Inyo-Mono Unit headquarters is at 3800 N. Sierra Way, in the city of San Bernardino.

McClelland has worked more than 30 years for Cal Fire. He started as a volunteer firefighter in Sun City in 1981, and worked his way up to battalion chief in the Riverside Unit by 2001.

He was promoted to assistant chief at Cal Fire South Region Southern Operations Center in Riverside in October 2003, the month the Old and Grand Prix fires devastated southwest San Bernardino County.

In 2009, McClelland was also incident commander during the Oak Glen III and Pendleton fires that threatened hundreds of homes in Oak Glen and Yucaipa.

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