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Fire marshal calling it a career
Art Castricone ended his more than three decades of service with the Yuma Fire Department last month when he retired as fire marshal.
"Thirty-three years is a good run, and I don't want to overstay my welcome," Castricone said. "We have hired the best and brightest men and women over the years and given them the training they needed. Now it is time to give them the opportunity to take it to the next level."
Castricone was hired with the Yuma Fire Department back in 1977, shortly after getting out of the U.S. Marine Corps, and through the years his job has become his passion.
He was hired through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, which was a federal law enacted in 1973 to train workers and provide them with jobs in the public service.
"I saw the advertisement, went down and tested for the job and eventually got hired on," Castricone said. "In those days, life as a firefighter was much simpler. You could pretty much count on getting a full night's sleep. That doesn't ever happen anymore."
After leaving the fire department in 1984, Castricone went back to being a carpenter before returning three years later in 1987.
He gradually worked his way through the ranks over the years and was promoted to fire marshal in 1993, the position he held until he retired Feb. 18.
"While I'm proud of the work I have done, there was nothing in my line of work that I can point to that would make me a hero. But I got to work alongside a lot of them," Castricone said. "I would like it to be remembered that I worked for some very progressive leadership. I just rode the boat and they steered."
As fire marshal, Castricone was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Community Risk Reduction Division of the fire department. He was also responsible for the inspection, enforcement and review of fire and life safety codes and ordinances, and activities related to the city's fire prevention and education activities.
Castricone said he doesn't have any specific plans now that he has retired, but he does want to spend more time with his grandchildren, who live in Yuma and Prescott. He also may go back to school.
The thing Castricone said he is most proud of is that he got to watch the Yuma Fire Department develop into the "world-class" department that it has become today.
"It's not just about firefighting. If it was we would have been out of business years ago," Castricone said. "The YFD has become an all-risk responder for the community, no matter what the emergency."
An historian of the fire department's past, Castricone said it began in 1900 after a fire downtown burned down a retail building on Main Street that was owned by E.F. Sanguinetti.
"Three young men were killed fighting that fire," Castricone said. "It prompted (Sanguinetti) to purchase fire equipment and go before the city council to form a fire department."
A major accomplishment for the YFD came in 1993, Castricone said, when it developed a sprinkler ordinance, which was the first of its kind anywhere in the state. Now every city in the state has a common code.
Since that time, Castricone said more commercial buildings have been built in the city with automated sprinkler systems than have been built in the entire history of the city.
Over the course of his career as a firefighter, Castricone said the Yuma Fire Department was constantly improving its emergency services.
"I can remember back to the days, prior to the fire department taking over the responsibility. When the wrecker truck driver would show up to the scene of an accident, he would have to extricate someone if it needed to be done," Castricone said.
Over the years, as the department grew, Castricone said YFD began promoting fire prevention, hired EMTs and paramedics in the 1980s which allowed the department to start responding to emergency medical calls, responding to hazardous material calls, getting involved in emergency management and providing tactical rescues.
"When there was a need that had to be met, the Yuma Fire Department met it," Castricone said. "This is also probably one of the only cities in the state with an earthquake potential and a fire department ready to respond to it."
Castricone said the Yuma Fire Department was also years ahead of its time, when in 1990 it got involved with community development.
"We were at the table when the town was growing and developing, making sure streets were wide enough that we could drive fire trucks down them, or turn around in cul-de-sacs," Castricone said, "It was one of the most important things the department ever did."
Although Castricone has retired, he has a lifetime of memories from his time as a firefighter. Why did he choose to retire? Castricone said it was just a good time personally and professionally to do so.
"I feel strongly that I took it to the next level when I got the opportunity," Castricone said. "Now it is time for the next generation of talented firefighters to do the same."
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854.