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Fire's Training Chief is State's Top Training Officer

Media Contact:  
Ron Myers, Daly City Fire Chief (650) 991-8138
Don Ciucci, Training Chief (650) 991-8139
Lynn Shannon, California State Firefighters Association, Inc.
(916) 446-9880


Don Ciucci Honored by California Firefighters’ Association

Daly City
- DCFD’s veteran Training Chief Don Ciucci, often recognized for his pivotal role in the development of the San Mateo County Firefighter Academy, is the California State Firefighters’ Association’s “Training Officer of the Year”, announced Fire Chief Ron Myers.

“Chief Ciucci not only trains; he mentors. Over the years, Don has trained and mentored hundreds of recruit firefighters, while continuing his full-time schedule as the department’s Training Chief. He is someone who honestly cares about personnel succeeding in their career and personal lives. His motivation and dedication is unmatched. He is a model for other Training Officers, not only in San Mateo County but throughout the State of California,” underscored Chief Myers.

In addition to Chief Myers’ nomination letter, the CSFA received letters of support for Chief Ciucci from various fire service agencies throughout San Mateo County.

“The Training Program that Don has developed over the years, and continues to revise for his department, is a model for providing basic and recurrent firefighter skills training as well as adaptation to the ever-changing missions of the fire service,” wrote San Bruno Division Chief James Holdridge, who is also the Secretary-Treasurer of the San Mateo County Fire Training Officers Association.

“Chief Ciucci’s passion for the job is second to none,” described Battalion Chief Dick Dennin of the City of South San Francisco. “He strives for perfection and settles for nothing less. He has earned a reputation here in San Mateo County as one of the finest Training Officers in the county.”

“You can ask graduates of the San Mateo County Firefighter Academy who they thought made the most lasting impression during their training, and the vast majority would name Training Officer Don Ciucci. If you pass Don’s class, you know the material,” added Burlingame Fire Chief Bill Reilly.

“Chief Ciucci not only provides topnotch training for the Daly City Fire Department. His training leadership has led many of us to rise up and follow suit. He has been a true leader for the (Academy). I can think of no other Training Officer who is more deserving of this prestigious honor than Chief Don Ciucci,” echoed Woodside Battalion Chief Rawn Pritchard.

South County Fire Authority Battalion Chief Douglas Fry met Ciucci at the Fire and Rescue Western Conference held in San Jose in 1997. “Don was already working on developing a plan to begin a Firefighter/Paramedic training. His vision was unprecedented. He worked through all the issues. Many obstacles had to be overcome, but Don was prepared. The end result was a successful program, with competent personnel operating as firefighter/paramedics,” related Chief Fry.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree in City and Regional Planning from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Chief Ciucci’s career with the City of Daly City began on June 16, 1972, as Assistant Planner for the Redevelopment Agency. Working with a Staff Planner and a secretary, the three-member division worked on land-use issues, design policies and economic strategies. “In those days, my work schedule was filled with meetings after meetings, with many lasting late into the night, ” the Chief noted.

Nine months from Ciucci’s hire date, the city’s Staff Planner left for Europe. At 24 years old and under the tutelage of then-City Manager David Rowe, Ciucci was promoted to Staff Planner, a position he held for nearly seven years.

Born in San Francisco, Ciucci said he grew up in a neighborhood comprised of Irish, Italian and German families, “and when the guys reached adulthood, they either became firefighters, police officers, worked for PG&E or the phone company,” he explained.

“I have this close childhood friend, Frank Walsh, who worked for the Santa Clara Fire Department. Having no brothers, Frank and I had always been close. At the end of our workdays, Frank would tell me how he saved two people from a traffic accident. At best, I could only tell him how a Redevelopment Agency meeting went. In terms of job satisfaction, there was no comparison, and mine never seemed to keep pace with Frank’s,” Ciucci said.

In 1979, at 30 years old, married but with no children yet, Ciucci left the Redevelopment Agency, and took a pay cut of nearly 50% to become a firefighter. “My mother was devastated,” he said. But with the personal and financial support of his wife, Debbie, Ciucci took the written test, passed the physical exam and waited for 11 months to get the call.

“Difficult as it was, I never regretted making that decision. I never looked back,” Ciucci reiterated.

Four years later, in 1983, Ciucci was promoted to Engineer Operator. In 1985, he became Captain. In January 1989, he was made Acting Training Chief. On February 1, 1990, his appointment to Training Chief was official. Last year, in April 2002, Daly City asked Ciucci to add “Acting Assistant Fire Chief” to his myriad of responsibilities. At age 55, he accepted the challenge, and concurrently holds both positions.

Most notable achievements during Ciucci’s 24-year tenure in the fire service include being a major player in the implementation of the DCFD’s Paramedic program, as well as San Mateo County’s nationally recognized Advanced Life Support and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program. He developed two comprehensive training guides, both of which are over 100 pages in length and utilized as a model by other fire agencies statewide. For over 25 years, he has been an active Board Director for the annual Operation Santa Claus drive. He developed and supervised the construction of a unique training facility for DCFD and county firefighters located at Fire Station #94. He is an expert in auto extrication and provides this expertise training for local and county firefighter recruits. He assisted in the construction design of the recently built Fire Station #93, with cost-effective modular features. He has been successful in seeking local grants to fund specialized training equipment, public education and community outreach. He is a state-certified Master Instructor, Level III Instructor Certificate, and holds a lifetime teaching credential.

“Don’s accomplishments have earned him a unique classification few, if any, could equal nor surpass, locally or statewide. He is indeed a rare find, and the City of Daly City has reaped the rewards of having someone of his stature, vision, intelligence and leadership qualities over the span of three decades. He deserves not only our congratulations on receiving this state award, but also our collective grand salute,” offered Daly City Mayor Adrienne Tissier.

Of his numerous achievements, Chief Ciucci took particular pride in the DCFD personnel. “I consider our team to be the best in Northern California, and I would like to think I helped define it. I am most proud to see that people in my own organization value training as much as I do. I really believe in the benefit of training. To emphasize this concept, my training van has a sign painted on it that reads: ‘Preparation determines performance’,” he explained.

“Within the Daly City fire personnel, there are a number of excellent instructors. If in some small way, I was able to influence their interest in training, then that’s what this award is all about,” Chief Ciucci added.

The CSFA recognized this year’s awardees at a conference attended by over 5,000 firefighters, held in San Diego last month. According to a CSFA official, over 100 nominees were in contention for the “Training Officer of the Year” award.

Chief Ciucci and wife, Debbie, are long time residents of Pacifica. They have two children: Angelina, 21, and Matthew, 17.