Hellsgate Fire Chief Gary Hatch has been elected president of the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA).
Hatch took the position over in late July and oversees an organization that represents more than 1,000 fire officers from around the state. It was 20 years ago that Hatch first joined the AFCA, soon after becoming the operations fire chief for the then Diamond Star Fire Department.
“One of the first things I did when the board voted to make me fire chief was to join the only group that I knew helped develop fire chiefs — the AFCA,” Hatch said.
“To be elected the head of this great organization is a privilege that I never thought would have been possible back then.”
Hatch has served as vice president for the AFCA for the last three years and takes over for past president Larry Rooney, assistant fire chief for the Peoria Fire Department.
Hatch said Rooney led the association through some of the toughest times in Arizona history.
From the state dismantling the fire marshal’s office, eliminating regional fire service training, passing legislation that allows fireworks, dealing with some of the largest wildland fires in state history and handling financial issues that almost closed the AFCA.
The association formed in 1966 to offer education, leadership advancement and networking for those in the fire service field.
With Hatch moving up to president, a new vice president was appointed.
Mary Cameli, assistant fire chief with the Mesa Fire Department will serve as vice chair for the next two years.
“Mary is the first female to serve in this office in the past 45 years and we are proud of her accomplishments.” Hatch said, “but she was elected not because she is a woman, but because she is a great leader in fire service and has earned the right to represent the AFCA within the state and on the national arena.”