FAIRFIELD — They were hired by the Fairfield Fire Department the same day 30 years ago – and Capt. Monty Fortney and Fire Engineer Randy Engell both retire Tuesday, with baseball a part of the two men’s plans.
Fortney will drive a travel trailer and follow his son Chad, 21, a Vacaville High School and Solano College graduate, as he plays baseball for Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. Engell plans to visit stadiums including Fenway Park, where the Boston Red Sox play.
The captain and fire engineer spoke Monday at Station 37 about three decades with the Fire Department. Fortney recalls helping deliver a baby on the day a new fire chief began work.
“I actually caught the baby,” Fortney said, a role Engell described as quarterback.
Engell remembers responding with a crew to a call on Washington Street, where he was raised. A woman who had gone to school with his parents had chest pains and firefighters were able to bring her back to life after her heart stopped. She is alive today, Engell said.
The life-and-death work of firefighting can come with a cost. Engell, 52, had a heart attack as a 38-year-old and decided for his health to demote himself from captain to fire engineer. Fortney, 53, re-injured his shoulder Aug. 27, fighting the Marigold Fire, and has a second surgery planned.
Erratic winds of up to 15 mph helped spread the fire that destroyed five homes and damaged at least 10 others. Fortney said wind in Fairfield is among the challenges the department faces.
“Firefighters don’t put out wind-driven fires out,” he explained. Such blazes subside or a natural barrier ends their progress, the fire captain said.
Engell, whose family was involved with the Cordelia Fire District, joined the district as a 14-year-old volunteer and the 1980 graduate of Armijo High School later began with the Fairfield Fire Department. He concludes his career with 30 years of memories.
“We all remember,” Engell said, “even the little details on every fire.”
Ask the two men about whether movies and TV programs show the reality of firefighting and they agree Hollywood has a talent for embellishment. Engell said actors portraying firefighters on film are given special masks so their faces are visible.
Fortney said he and Engell spent three decades doing what firefighters do.
They don’t want to be recognized as doing anything special, Fortney said.
“We always felt we were doing our job,” he said.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.