Dressed in his finest, Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi took his place in the captain seat of the station’s ladder truck Tuesday for a final spin around the town he spent his whole firefighting career protecting.
For those 35 years of service, the Payson Fire Department pulled out all the stops for deMasi’s retirement.
Local firefighters dressed in their blues and fire chiefs from surrounding areas together with other emergency personnel attended the formal ceremony at the Main Street fire station this week.
It was the first time the fire department had held such a formal service, but one rightly deserved, firefighters said.
“He left it better than he found it,” said Battalion Chief Dan Bramble, who led the ceremony in the engine bay.
Lined up in two rows with military precision, the firefighters stood at stoic attention as Bramble gave a brief overview of deMasi’s accomplishments as chief the last 10 years.
They include implementing three-person crews, securing numerous grants, buying fire engines, building a live firefighting training facility (the first in northern Gila County), improving the fire safety rating, adding mobile data computers in every engine and pushing for collaboration with local fire chiefs and higher standards.
“He was instrumental in securing fire station 13 (off Rim Club Parkway) and not only securing it, but making it work with limited resources,” Bramble said. “Chief deMasi helped lead us into a new age of three fire stations for Payson Fire, it hasn’t been easy, but he has managed the job beautifully.
“In many ways, many folks feel the mark of a true leader is to take an organization and to leave it better than when you found it, and I confirm to you that chief deMasi has done that.”
With Fire Marshal Bob Lockhart at his side, deMasi walked down the line of firefighters, taking his time to shake hands and say a brief word with each.
The air was thick with emotion as the firefighters then presented deMasi and his wife with the flag that had flown that day outside the station.
deMasi thanked everyone and said he had enjoyed his time working for the department. In his usual joking manner, he added that it hadn’t always been easy, but had been good overall.
deMasi leaves a fire department in confusion caused by the Payson Town Council’s tough budget decisions that will likely cost the department its fire marshal and nearly eliminated the reserves.
While the reserve program has tentatively made the budget, it appears likely the council will do away with Lockhart’s position, even though many in the community have balked at the idea.
The council says cheaper outside contractors can handle his duties when it comes to building and fire inspections.
One captain Tuesday said the mood in the department is down, with most firefighters confused at the council’s recent actions. He said it feels like everything has been turned upside down.