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Fire Department Chief Retires

Friday June 18, 2004

Berkeley Fire Chief Reginald Garcia, 56, called it quits Thursday in an e-mail to his fellow firefighters, announcing that on Sept. 17 he’ll leave the office he’s held for the last seven years. 

“I am officially announcing my planned retirement,” Garcia wrote. “It is with mixed emotion that I make this announcement.” 

Garcia was forced to make his decision known to his department after the rumor mill kicked into high gear with speculation about his plans, said one firefighter. 

Before coming to Berkeley, Garcia had been Oakland’s assistant fire chief in charge of operations, and he played a major role in the hills fire of 1991 and in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. 

Garcia was no stranger to Berkeley, having attended Cal as an undergraduate in the 1960s and earning his M.B.A. here in 1984. 

He joined the Berkeley Fire Department in June, 1997, after retiring from his post in Oakland. He was one of 10 finalists selected from a nationwide search after Chief Gary Cates announced his retirement. 

“He’s been responsible for a number of big advancements here,” said Deputy Fire Chief David Orth. “All of the engines were replaced under his tenure, and we’ve made a lot of progress in disaster preparedness.” 

The Berkeley Fire Department includes 142 personnel staffing seven stations with a total of seven engines, two hook and ladder trucks, a hazardous materials truck and three ambulances.  

“During my time here as chief I have been fortunate to have worked with and been supported by the great Berkeley Fire Department family,” Garcia wrote. “Words cannot express how much this has meant to me or how much I will miss all of you.” 

Garcia said his decision wasn’t based on any personal conflicts or “any particular problem or incident. It is simply time for me to begin a new phase of my life.” 

The departing chief said he will continue to serve until Sept. 17. “Sometime within the next few days or weeks at most, I expect the city manager will announce plans for my successor,” he said. ?