Mike van Loben Sels was appointed Fire Chief on October 28th, 2019. He is a long-time Merced County resident, and is the 13th Fire Chief for the Merced County Fire Department. His purview includes oversight of all functions of the Merced County Fire Department and the Merced County Office of Emergency Services.
Chief van Loben Sels started his fire service career in 1992 by becoming a Paid Call Firefighter with the Merced County Fire Department. In 1993, he accepted a position with CAL FIRE as a seasonal firefighter in the Fresno Kings Unit. In 1995, he was promoted to a Limited Term Fire Apparatus Engineer in the Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit (MMU). In 1997, he obtained a permanent Fire Apparatus Engineer Position working within CAL FIRE MMU. In 2000, he accepted a TAU Fire Captain position in the San Benito Monterey Unit and was then promoted to a permanent Fire Captain in MMU, working out of the Coarsegold F.F.S. In 2006, he accepted a Battalion Chief position working out of the Santa Clara Unit (SCU). In 2008, Mike came out of training and took over the headquarters battalion in SCU. In 2010, Mike transferred back to MMU and was assigned to the Los Banos battalion. In 2017, Mike was promoted to Deputy Chief at the MMU Headquarters MMU.
Mike has an Associates of Science degree in Fire Science from Columbia College. He has managed multiple programs, including firefighter hiring, the fleet for Merced County, the equipment committee for MMU, and the Merced County Technical Rescue Team. He was also a member of the Incident Management III Operations Section Chief Cadre and the Incident Commander Cadre.
In 2004, Mike became an active member of the state Incident Management Teams, where he served as the Incident Commander for Incident Management Team 1.
Mike has been married for 16 years to his beautiful wife Sarah, and they have three wonderful kids: Emma, Jared, and Sophie.