A ride on the Streetcar with retiring Tucson Fire Chief Jim Critchley

A ride on the Streetcar with retiring Tucson Fire Chief Jim Critchley

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson Fire Chief Jim Critchley will retire before the end of the year.

The day after he notified the department, Critchley joked that there were plenty of people wanting to buy him lunch.

Most days, Critchley rides the Sun Link Streetcar to lunch. Friday, December 8, Tucson News Now tagged along.

Working out of Station One in downtown Tucson as the chief for the last six years, Critchley's watched the community grow.

"Downtown is a lot livelier and lasts a lot longer," he said. "It used to shut down at five o'clock. That fire station there is busy all day long."

So busy that the call volume for fire and medical emergencies in Tucson city limits has the TFD ranked as a top 40 busiest metro city. Critchley's joined the department in 1988.

A ride on the Streetcar comes with reminders of many of the calls that he's responded to over the years, whether it's a fire at the Tucson Convention Center while a movie was being made or the call to the historic foundation to help preserve the front of the Grill after a devastating fire.

"There are crosses on sidewalks, where there was a bike or a pedestrian or a car wreck, and I know that they didn't make it, but I was on the call," Critchley said. "Some of them are hard, but some of them are great."

Like the nine babies that he's helped deliver. Or the department's partnership with agencies around the world, like the mass casualty exercise that sent some members of Tucson Fire Department to train in Israel.

"We're on the map," he said. "People know Tucson Fire."

The department boasts the highest Insurance Service Office (ISO) ranking for a metro fire department. Critchley said he's proud to know that the department's quality service can make a difference for homeowners and their insurance.

The physical and mental health of firefighters has been a priority for Critchley. He said it's been important for the department to have wellness programs, but there are what he consider more contentions changes that he believes could help as well.

Switching up the schedules or two-crew rescue vehicles would need to be the projects of a future chief, according to Critchley.

He said his next project will be leaving his work family of roughly 750 employees to focus on his much smaller family at home.

"I've had an incredible ride and I'm just one of a long ling of firefighters, Tucson Fire Department employees that are giving back to the community," he said. "It's been nothing I ever dreamed I would do, and now I can't imagine to now have done it."

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