Fire Chief to Retire

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 25, 2001
Media Contact:  
Press Contact: John C. Martin, City Manager, City of Daly City
(650) 991-8127
Daly City – Bob O'Donnell dreamed of being a firefighter as a young boy. At age 26, he joined the Daly City Fire Department, and began a stellar career that would last nearly 30 years, eventually reaching the top post of Fire Chief four years ago.

From the firefighter rank he held since 1972, O'Donnell was promoted to Fire Engine Operator in l979, then to Fire Captain in 1980. He was appointed Administrative Battalion Chief in 1986, and in 1990, Operations Battalion Chief. He was DCFD's firefighter of the year in 1985, and became the department's highest-ranking official in 1997.

"Bob is the quintessential fire chief," said Mayor Carol Klatt. "His leadership and management skills helped us overcome recent challenges in the fire department. He leaves behind a strong and capable group of career firefighters, and a legacy of successful programs."

During his tenure the past three decades, O'Donnell saw firefighting modals changed from passive-reactive to pro-active. He was a strong proponent of fire prevention and community fire safety education programs, long before they became status quo. In 1985, he coordinated DCFD's Earthquake Project, and administered a $20,000 state grant which provided 2,400 citizens instruction on earthquake preparedness. From 1989 to 1996, he served as the department's Public Education Coordinator, and spearheaded various outreach and public education events.

As Administrative Battalion Chief, O'Donnell helped secure grants to provide smoke detectors to low-income residents to fund various public education programs. In 1986, women were welcomed to the DCFD, and O'Donnell oversaw the integration program, which included sensitivity training for personnel and addressing facilities issues.

"Bob is the most congruent man I have ever met. He walks the walk; he talks the talk," commented DCFD Training Officer Don Ciucci. Both have served the department's management team since 1989. "Bob is the finest man I have ever met. His integrity and character is beyond reproach. Above all, Bob's love for the fire service has no limits. He will be sorely missed."

The fire chief cited several major departmental accomplishments during his term.
  • Reflecting the growth of Daly City's population the last decade, the DCFD added 21 new firefighters and two additional support staff to its 82-member personnel.
  • The fire department of San Mateo County's most populous city was also pivotal in the development of an award-winning, nationally-recognized Joint Partnership Agreement (JPA) engine-based paramedic program, which involved training 17 in-house paramedics.
  • The successful Vegetation Management Program rid the highly flammable gorse plants in Daly City's Southern Hills neighborhood, changing the area from very high fire hazard severity zone to a low hazard zone. In so doing, Daly City was the first community in California to achieve this feat.
  • Public education programs were expanded.
  • The site for the new fire station 92 was chosen, and the preliminary plans have been approved, with construction expected to be completed by Spring 2003.

"During his 30 years in the Daly City Fire Department, Chief O'Donnell served by example and instilled exemplary work ethic, dedication and values that will be hard to replace. His passion for firefighting and community service are ingrained. Finding a permanent replacement for Bob won't be without great effort," stated City Manager John Martin. To minimize the void, Mike Orloff, the city's Fire Chief from 1989 to 1997, will come out of retirement, and will serve as Interim Fire Chief until a new Fire Chief is appointed.

Chief O'Donnell hopes to spend the next few months traveling with his wife, Jackie, and visiting his grown children: daughters Moira (29) and Amee (22), and son Matt (26), daughter-in-law Lisa and first grandchild Michaela. He plans to do more writing, volunteering and even teaching. He is expected to return January 2002 for his formal retirement party.