– 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.