FAIRFIELD — The fire department is losing a leader.
Station 37 Battalion Chief Rob Bartoli, 52, will retire Sunday after a 30-year career in public service and firefighting. He worked his last day at Station 37 Friday.
“What an amazing journey,” Bartoli said.
Hired in 1983 as a public safety officer, Bartoli worked his way up to chief. He was incident commander of the six-alarm fire at the Macro Plastics manufacturing plant in July 2011 and worked a 7-alarm vegetation fire on Nelson Hill in Cordelia two weeks later.
In August 2008, Bartoli saw an 8-alarm blaze destroy 200 vacant, abandoned homes at Travis Air Force Base. Much of the domestic water was turned off, said Bartoli, and firefighters eventually lost count of the dozens of homes that succumbed to the fire.
“It just burned and burned,” Bartoli said.
After Hurricane Katrina, Bartoli was deployed to the Gulf Coast in 2005 to set up disaster recovery centers. Fire crews helped FEMA evacuate victims while distributing food and clothes, he said.
“That was an interesting experience,” Bartoli said.
Bartoli also went to Southern California in 2003 to work the Cedar and Mendoza fires – both serious, significant fires where firefighters were lost, he said.
“He definitely brings a lot of experience, history that we’re losing,” said Fairfield Fire Chief Tony Velasquez.
Bartoli said a highlight at the fire department was being named 2001 Firefighter of the Year by his peers.
“That was awesome,” he said.
In retirement, Bartoli said he plans to stay active and hopefully teach or get his pilot’s license.
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.