Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ben Lomond Fire chief retires after 37 years fighting fire

BEN LOMOND -- In a little more than a month, Ben Lomond Fire District Chief John Charcho plans to step away from the job he's had for nearly six years and plant some tomatoes, as well as spend more time with his family.

After a firefighting career that began 37 years ago, the chief will retire April 30.

"I am looking forward to visiting my daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren," said Charcho, a San Francisco native who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War before joining the San Jose Fire Department in November 1972. "Two of my daughters and their families live out of the area. My youngest daughter teaches third grade at Main Street Elementary School in Soquel."

Charcho, the son of a former San Francisco firefighter, became Ben Lomond's chief about six years ago, two-and-a-half years after he retired from a 28-year firefighting career in San Jose. His last post there was in the arson investigations unit and fire liaison to the San Jose Police Department.

"I retired from San Jose Fire Department after 28 years because it's a young person's job and I was not interested in sleepless nights, responding to emergencies and firefighting due to the toll it takes on your body after that many years," Charcho said.

He said he never would have thought he'd become a fire chief in the area where his family vacationed when he was a child.

His parents had a summer home in Lompico in the 1950s and '60s, he said. And an uncle had a home in Ben Lomond during the same time. In 1989, before the Loma Prieta earthquake, he, his wife and three daughters moved to Ben Lomond "for the climate and atmosphere."

Among his accomplishments as Ben Lomond's fire chief, Charcho instituted Tuesday training days for the district's 35 volunteer firefighters who get paid when they respond to fires, such the Brookdale Inn and Spa and the Lockheed Fire. Also, during this past winter's storms, he created a Twitter account so followers could "tweet" about road conditions.

"This storm season, our office received lots of inquiries about why this road is closed," he said. "I started the Twitter account because I thought it would be a good use of technology. When I was commuting to San Jose, I would have liked to know what roads to avoid."

The site,, has nearly 160 followers and is strictly about road conditions, not advertisement or announcing pancake breakfasts, Charcho said.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel - Article link

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