What began in 1976 for Bob Lovett ended in Redmond earlier this week.
He started out as a firefighter with the Bothell Fire Department before moving to Redmond a few years later. Lovett, who became the Redmond fire marshal in September 1990, stayed with the city until Tuesday, when he retired after a 35-year career.
“I had no inkling to go into fire service, but I was looking for a job,” Lovett said. “I was definitely thinking I might end up doing something else. I never thought it was a career.”
But after going through a training camp, he found the physical aspect of the job very appealing. Lovett also enjoyed that firefighting wasn’t a nine-to-five job. The former fire marshal said the real turning point for him came during a class in which he learned about hazardous materials and different fire-prevention methods. After that, he was hooked and took the next opportunity to learn more about the topic. He was a firefighter for about six years before he made the switch to the fire prevention side of things 29 years ago.
While a firefighter’s main job is to put out fires, Lovett said a fire marshal’s primary function revolves around preventing those fires from even happening. The job involves reviewing buildings’ technical plans, alarm and sprinkler systems and managing inspections to ensure things are up to code.
“Our job is enforcement a lot of the times,” Lovett said.
The 62-year-old said the work was good and the benefits of keeping people safe were rewarding, but he admits his job had its challenges. Lovett said it was always difficult when code requirements were beyond the means of the building owner or occupant. When plans needed to be altered and construction was required but people couldn’t afford it, Lovett said they had to work to find another solution.
“It’s not really glamorous work,” said Rich Gieseke, a deputy fire marshal for Redmond. “But it’s very important work.”
Gieseke said Lovett was very good at stressing the importance of fire prevention and instilling this mentality into those who worked with him. Fire prevention is just as vital as firefighting — if a fire truck has to go down the street with its lights flashing, Gieseke said they didn’t do their job.
Due to budget cuts, Gieseke said the city will not be looking for a new fire marshal as Lovett’s position will be eliminated. Although they’re not sure about the specifics, Gieseke said Lovett’s many duties will now be absorbed throughout the fire department.
Gieseke has worked with Lovett for seven of the 10 years he has been with the City of Redmond. He said Lovett’s knowledge about fire prevention is tremendous, calling the now-retired fire marshal a visionary, “20 years ahead of his time.” Gieseke said many local codes Lovett wrote and adopted during the last two decades are now just being adopted on the state level. This extensive knowledge and experience is something Gieseke will miss along with Lovett’s guidance and mentorship.
Lovett’s sense of humor will also be missed. Gieseke said Lovett is extremely funny and not above making light of a situation, even at his own expense. This made for a more enjoyable workplace, Gieseke said.
Lovett enjoyed the workplace as well, saying the thing he will miss the most is the people because they were “joy to be associated with” and consistently extended themselves to do their best and get the work done. He said he’ll miss seeing them on a daily basis.
Now that he is retired, Lovett said one of the first items on his to-do list is visiting family around the country. Beyond that, he said he would like to do some writing and drawing as well.
This is the second notable retirement from the Redmond Fire Department. Fire chief Tim Fuller retired last month after a 40-year firefighting career, including the last six as Redmond’s fire chief.