John Ross is giving up small-town firefighting for the big time. The Payson fire chief has taken a job as the assistant chief of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District in California, on the east side of San Francisco Bay.
Ross' last day on the job in Payson will be April 25.
Town Manager Fred Carpenter said Battalion Chief Marty deMasi will serve as interim chief.
"We'll be evaluating our options for awhile," Carpenter said.
Ross has been Payson Fire Chief for about five years, Mayor Ken Murphy said. Murphy sat on the committee that hired Ross.
The chief said he was invited to look into the Contra Costa County job by one of his best friends, who happens to be the district's chief.
He said he had not been looking for a new position, "... it just happened."
Ross said the California job was one of a large number that opened due to retirements. He said his friend wants to build his own management team, so contacted Ross about the position.
"It's an urban-suburban district, 310 square miles and has a budget of $74 million. There are 31 fire stations and 409 firefighters," Ross said.
While it is a big change from Payson, it is not a major change for Ross.
"I was assistant chief of the Tucson Fire Department (before coming to Payson), so I am comfortable with that size of department and that part of the country," he said.
The chief's decision was not an easy one.
"I love being here in Payson," he said. "The fire department and its personnel are extraordinary, they are committed to their work and enjoy it. There are wonderful people among the town staff and residents."
He said the Regional Payson Area Project, the combined efforts of different Rim country fire departments, various area agencies and community volunteers, is in good hands. The RPAP is becoming a nonprofit entity.
"The people who are our partners in it are very talented and forward thinking," Ross said. He has no doubt about its continued success.
"I'm extremely disappointed to lose him. He's a wonderful professional. He came into a good department here in Payson and added a whole lot to it in his time here," Murphy said.
Regarding Carpenter's plan to make deMasi interim chief, the mayor said, "I've known Marty for 18 years and served with him for 10 years in the fire department. He is an excellent choice for interim chief."