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New fire chief officially badged in special ceremony

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By Carol A. Clark

Fire and police officials, cadets and local dignitaries turned out to honor new Los Alamos Fire Chief Douglas Tucker at his badge pinning ceremony Thursday afternoon.

Tucker’s wife Kelley pinned the shiny gold badge on her husband’s uniform.

Fire Chief Douglas MacDonald, “Chief Mac,’ was at the event, making his first public appearance and looking tanned and healthy and 10 years younger since retiring last month.

“This is wonderful,” he said of the event, “Doug Tucker’s a great guy.”

Tucker served as MacDonald’s deputy chief since 1996. They forged a strong friendship and became close with each other’s families.

Mostly vegetarians, the pair were often seen meeting various fire officials for lunch at the China Moon Restaurant where they could select from a buffet filled with fruits and vegetables.

County Administrator Max Baker spoke at Thursday’s upbeat event held in the Fire Department Administration Offices on East Road.

“Congratualions Chief Tucker,” he said.

Baker introduced Bill Gentile representing the National Nuclear Security Association as well as officials from Los Alamos National Laboratory including Mike Lansing, attending the ceremony.

He also recognized several Los Alamos County department heads including Assistant County Administrator Tony Mortillaro and senior police officials Lt. Scott Mills, Det. DeWayne Williams and Det. Shari Mills at the event.

Officials from the Albuquerque and Santa Fe fire departments made the trip to Los Alamos to honor the county’s new fire chief.

Tucker’s sister Ann Karver traveled from Phoenix with her friend Bob White to share in her brother’s important day. White lived in Los Alamos years ago. His father, Robert White Sr., served as a firefighter in Los Alamos from 1950 to 1960 before leaving to work at the laboratory where he remained until his retirement.

Acting Deputy Fire Chief Juan Pacheco recounted Tucker’s accomplishments during the 40 years he’s dedicated to the fire service.

“Chief Tucker began his fire service career in 1969 when he joined the Phoenix Fire Department,” Pacheco said. “As a firefighter, he was selected along with 11 others to become the first group of Rescue Medics in the State of Arizona.  That group, affectionately known as the ‘Dirty Dozen,’ was trained to the level of paramedic and went on to become the core group for the Technical Rescue Team.”

As a Paramedic Captain, Tucker received the PFD Award of Merit for his efforts in the development, training and dedication to the High Angle and Technical Rescue Team, he said. Tucker developed and led the SWAT-Medic Team and the Critical Stress Debriefing Team and was named Paramedic of the Year for his efforts.

Tucker became the Public Information Officer for the department and as the child drowning incidents in Arizona were the highest in the nation, he helped develop a nationally recognized Child Drowning Prevention Program.  For these efforts, he received the PFD Award of Merit.    

In May 1994, he retired as a division chief of the Phoenix Fire Department, married Kelley and moved to Los Alamos to become the assistant chief of operations for LAFD.

“I feel blessed to have a husband who loves what he does,” Kelley said. “I ask him how his day was and he never complains and often says, ‘I’m just lucky they pay me to do this’.”

In July 2008 the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation selected Tucker as the chief officer for the Local State Assistance Team.  This team responds to assist New Mexico Departments in the advent of a Line of Duty Death.

LAFD is the second largest career fire department in the state of New Mexico. The department provides a multi-disciplined, multi-dimensional mission of fire, rescue, emergency medical, public education and life safety services to the citizens and visitors of Los Alamos County.

Tucker’s son Jim serves as captain for the Phoenix Fire Department. His daughter Cindy is a banking vice president in northern California and his son Ryan is a senior attending New Mexico State University studying pre-law.

Tucker also has three grandchildren including Zack, John and Lay Loni.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.