Life with the chief

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Kelley Tucker talks about what it’s like to live with the fire chief

By Carol A. Clark

Other than a 2-way radio within his grasp 24/7, life in the fire chief’s household sounds quite typical.

“We may get fire calls at all hours but it’s not unlike any woman whose husband is doing public work and I’m not whining one bit,” Kelley Tucker said.

In fact, Kelley’s husband Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker often remarks about how lucky he feels to actually be paid to do his job, she said with a big smile.

“I’m so blessed to have a husband who loves what he does. Doug never complains about his work when I ask him about his day,” Kelley said. “He has learned over the years to leave his work at work when he comes home and to focus on his family. Even though I may have him half the time and because he’s so dedicated to his work we sacrifice extended vacations for shorter ones – I wouldn’t change a thing. He is such a wonderful person and I’m very proud of the work his does and all he has accomplished.”

Kelley describes her husband as possessing great honesty and compassion for people.

He was officially badged to lead the second largest career fire department in New Mexico during a special ceremony held Aug. 13. Kelley was by his side just as she has been since the couple married 15 years ago.

“She is a wonderful wife and mother and I’m very fortunate to have her in my life,” the chief said. “I often work long hours and Kelley is very understanding.”

Kelley’s supportive nature shined through during the Cerro Grande Fire, which began as a prescribed fire in the Upper Frijoles Canyon of Bandelier National Monument. It got out of control on May 5, 2000 and became known as the Cerro Grande Fire because the fire burned on Cerro Grande Mountain.

Kelley recalled how her family helped their elderly neighbors pack up and evacuate.

“The hardest thing was to watch the fire unfold on television and not be able to speak with my husband but I’m not complaining at all,” she said. “I took our boys and that was it, not one other thing. Having my husband really put everything into perspective and I realize everything else was just material things.”

The chief has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to the fire service. He first met Kelley in Phoenix. The couple moved to Los Alamos just two weeks after their 1994 wedding because the chief had retired from the Phoenix Fire Department and was the new assistant chief of operations for LAFD.

In 1996, he was promoted to deputy chief where he served along side Chief Doug MacDonald for more than 13 years before MacDonald retired in July.

“Mac has been so instrumental in raising our kids … He’s like an uncle … I’ve never met anyone like him,” Kelley said. “I know Doug feels so fortunate to have had the opportunity to not only work with Mac but to befriend him in the true firefighter tradition. He and Lauren have truly become our family.”  

The chief’s son Jim is captain of the Phoenix Fire Department. His daughter Cindy is a banking vice president in northern California.

The Tuckers together raised a houseful of boys. Their son Ryan was in first grade when they moved to town. Now 21 years old, Ryan graduated from Los Alamos High School and is a senior at New Mexico State University studying pre-law.

Early in their marriage, the Tuckers took over the care of Kelley’s nephews Kory and Kody. The boys were fifth and sixth graders.

“I’ve been so busy raising them these last years and Doug has always been so compassionate about them. He coached football when they were in school to be more involved with them,” she said. “Kory is now 22 and living in Phoenix. Kody, 24, just graduated from nursing college and is working at a hospital in Wyoming.”

The Tuckers also have three grandchildren including Zack, John and Lay Loni.