After handling one of Forest Lakes’ worst snowstorms on record in January while maintaining a full-time position with the Gilbert Fire Department, Forest Lakes Fire Chief Dave Rodriquez was named fire officer of the year by the Arizona Fire Chief Association (AFCA).
“Our ability to meet our residents’ needs was proven beyond a doubt in large part due to Chief Rodriquez’s foresight and planning,” wrote Roxie Allen, with the Forest Lakes Fire Department, in a recommendation letter to the AFCA. “His proactive approach of bringing in extra personnel before the storm meant we were able to provide aid to residents without becoming overwhelmed.”
Rodriquez has more than 29 years fire experience in Arizona including two years with Forest Lakes.
Rodriquez started his career as a volunteer firefighter with Rural/Metro Fire Department in 1980. In 1985, he became the first paid municipal firefighter in Gilbert. With Rural/Metro, Rodriquez has worked as a firefighter, captain, shift commander and today, battalion chief.
In June of 2008, Rodriquez became Forest Lakes’ fire chief. Before Rodriquez, Forest Lakes had gone through three fire chiefs in only four years.
“The Forest Lakes Fire District was in bad shape, and we were concerned for the stability and safety of our town. Ours is a small community, where neighbors are co-workers and friends are volunteers,” Allen wrote. “The department’s heart and soul was broken, our accountability was beyond repair and our mountain community was desperate for help and leadership.”
Rodriquez, who owns property in Forest Lakes, agreed to a six-month interim fire chief position and helped turn the small department around. With his guidance, the fire department began working more effectively with the sheriff’s department, homeowners association, water department, Black Mesa Ranger District and nearby fire department.
“We began to see results almost immediately,” Allen said. “Dave has successfully chosen a diverse pool of medics and firefighters from fire stations across Arizona to help implement the 24/7, 365 day staffing model in place today. We consider ourselves lucky to have found a fire chief who loves what he does, excels in competency, demonstrates accountability and responds humbly.”
Both the Gilbert and Forest Lakes Fire Departments nominated Rodriquez for the award.