Prescott Fire chief, who rose up through the ranks, retires this month
Prescott Fire Chief Bruce Martinez, who worked his way through the ranks from reserve firefighter to chief during his 30 years of service, said when he retires later this month he plans to de-stress, spend more time with his daughter in Portland as well as his son in Tucson, play golf, work in his woodshop, and check off the many items on his honey-do list.
"I've tried to make a difference improving instruction and training and ensuring every firefighter has what they need to keep safe as they do their work," Martinez said. "I'm thankful for the friendships I've made. Being a firefighter is being part of a family. Now, I'm moving on to a different page in my life."
Martinez started out as a reserve in 1982, became a full-time firefighter in 1987, was one of the first members of the hazardous materials team, worked his way up to serve as co-deputy fire chief for two years, became fire chief in November 2009, and continued to help out as needed, serving as incident commander at a home fire in February.
"He's one person who's held every position in the department, besides the role of fire marshal," said Prescott Fire Division Chief and Fire Marshal Eric Kriwer. "Chief Martinez has always acted with integrity and tried to do what was best for the city and the fire department. We're definitely going to miss him."
Prescott Fire Battalion Chief Don Devendorf said, "Bruce was in one of the first reserve classes, and we always knew he'd be a great hire."
Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher said he appreciated Martinez help in "ongoing multi-agency cooperation involving many of the search and rescue missions occurring in the Prescott basin over the past years."
During the Indian Fire in May 2002, Martinez "was in the communications center when we first started to get smoke reports," and used the countywide mutual aid system to call in five engines and a battalion commander from the Verde Valley Fire District to cover emergencies in Prescott during the fire, Devendorf said.
"Bruce Martinez was a leader who knew the department from the ground up, who placed a premium on training and preparedness, and who never
failed to make everyone in the room laugh when he had the opportunity," said Kim Kapin, spokesman for the City of Prescott. "The Fire Department staff as well as those at City Hall will truly miss his presence."
Prescott City Manager Craig McConnell said an interim fire chief will be appointed before Martinez leaves on May 30.
"Over the next couple of months, we will review the service and organizational structure of the fire department," McConnell said. "The appointment of a permanent replacement for the fire chief position is pending and will be based upon the results of that evaluation process."
Prescott Fire Battalion Chief Jay Fillingim recently retired, and Kristi Gagnon, a fire inspector and director of Prescott Firefighters Charities, is leaving to serve as fire marshal with the Camp Verde Fire District, Kriwer said.
"We're really proud of Kristi, appreciate her hard work, and look forward to her success in Camp Verde," Kriwer said.
Martinez said, "Jay really enjoyed his job, he is very unique and thought out of the box. He is highly dedicated, and he'll be missed."
Until the city reviews the fire department's organization, they won't know what effect these retirements will have on the structure and the budget, Kapin said.
"These people were outstanding members of the fire department, as they move on the department loses their institutional knowledge, which is a huge loss" Kapin said. "How that plays into the budget discussions, I don't know."
Central Yavapai Fire District Chief Paul Nies said Martinez called him on Friday to let him know he was retiring.
"We saw things through the same lens," Nies said of Martinez. "Anyone who's been a fire chief in the past five years will say it's a wearing profession with the tough financial times for the fire service, the changing generations in the workforce, and the different demographics of the communities we serve."
In November, when the City of Prescott considered contracting out its fire-protection services or turning the operation over to a fire district to deal with budget pressures, Martinez presented data and spoke with City Council members who decided to keep the fire department and focus on other ways to cut costs.
Giving back to the community has always been important to Martinez, who said the most rewarding thing he's done was starting the Burn Camp Open Golf Tournament and running it for its first seven years.
The tournament has raised hundred of thousands of dollars over the years, along with other firefighter organizations and Harley Owners Groups to keep the cost of attending the Arizona Children's Burn Camp for burn victims free to participants.