Tim Kelly

Battalion Chief (ret.)
Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD)
Timothy Kelly began his fire service career in 1987 as a firefighter for the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD). He promoted through the ranks of Firefighter, Engineer, Captain I, Captain II and retired as a Battalion Chief with 34-years of service in 2021. With decades of command experience, he was appointed as the Executive Officer to the Chief Deputy of Emergency Operations, assisting him in leading the day-to-day fire and emergency medical response for the City of Los Angeles.

Chief Kelly represented the LAFD on the California FIRESCOPE Task Force Committee and led the group as Chairperson for two consecutive terms. He is a qualified Type III Incident Commander, Strike Team Leader and served on the LAFD’s Incident Management Team in the position of Deputy Operations.

Serving as an instructor for the LAFD’s Leadership Academy, Executive Chief Officer Mentorship program and Company Officer Responsibilities and Expectations training, Timothy has played a significant role in helping to shape the future of the LAFD.

Chief Kelly is recognized for his professional influence at the local, state and national level and has lectured on standards of command, mayday procedures, operational risk management and emergency incident decision-making. He is the author of Your Structure Fire 360 Questions Answered, published in 2021. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Services Management from Union Institute and University and is a graduate from the West Point Leadership Academy at the Los Angeles Police Department.

Sessions by Tim Kelly

02:00 PM - 05:00 PM

Unintended Outcomes: Breaking the Cycle

Instructor:  Tim Kelly, Battalion Chief (Ret.), Los Angeles Fire Department, CA.
In 2018, Los Angeles City Battalion Chief Tim Kelly and a crew of firefighters survived a burn over and entrapment while fighting the Mendocino Fire. The Mendocino Fire remains the third largest wildfire in California’s history, burning nearly a half-million acres of the Mendocino Forest.

During firing operations, Chief Kelly and his crew were cut-off from their escape route by an immense crown-fire burning rapidly through the timber at the fire’s massive front. Chief Kelly will walk attendees through the chilling experience of the entrapment, detailing the sights, sounds and actions in that crucial moment. Participants will get a firsthand sense of what it was like to be caught in a burn-over of this magnitude, including the chaos and confusion that ensued as firefighters made their harrowing escape. He will discuss the leadership that surfaced amongst the crew in those pivotal seconds of being faced with a life-or-death situation.

A review of the U.S .Forest Service-Facilitated Learning Analysis will be reviewed to help highlight some of the larger incident management challenges, strategic and tactical decisions, environmental conditions and human factors that played a key role in the chain-of-events that day.  Chief Kelly will highlight some of the physical, psychological, and structural barriers that challenged the decision-making process and helped to set the stage for the unintended outcome.

An examination of some of the critical decisions leading up to the firefighter entrapment will help drive discussions on methods to help others avoid the same fate, as well as how to remain disciplined in fast paced and high pressure situations.

Case studies of subsequent wildfires will be presented to demonstrate how the lessons of Mendocino were successfully applied under nearly identical circumstances.  Lastly, Chief Kelly will reflect on the core takeaways as a means to further institutionalize risk management practices and create an anchor point from which to ultimately begin “breaking the cycle” of repeatedly learning the same type of lessons that have resulted in unintended outcomes.