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Ending 28-year fire career serving Manteca

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Ending 28-year fire career serving Manteca

Retiring assistant Manteca Fire Chief Randy Sutton and his wife Lana are surrounded by members of the department at a farewell party held Thursday afternoon in the Union Road fire station.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED January 29, 2010 2:44 a.m.
Randy Sutton thought it would be an easy exit to leave the fire department after almost three decades in Manteca – just to walk away, but in reality it is a big hurdle for him.

“I like what I do – it’s difficult to walk away.  I like this job so much,” he said.

The Union Road station – the headquarters for the department – hosted a farewell reception for Sutton Thursday afternoon that drew department heads from other city divisions.

He’s looking to the future with a strong urge that he wants to stay busy.  And with the skills of a fire marshal that is totally familiar with building codes, he feels he could possibly snag a job as a fire investigator.

Sutton worked his way up from a reserve fireman in July of 1980 to being named assistant chief last October garnering the respect of everyone in the department as well as in the community he served.

The chief will be returning on a part-time basis at the fire house to help train his successor whose experience must include that of a fire investigator and a building inspector – someone the department isn’t confident it can find within the ranks.

It was in his junior year at Ripon High School that Sutton was impressed with the experiences of a cousin serving as a firefighter in Alaska.  He was 25 years old when he left the reserves and joined the full time department in December of 1981 – having been a reserve for a year and a half.  He noted that fire department was hesitant in hiring man they considered to be too new to the profession.  Going on the reserves gave him a foot in the door.

Sutton worked on a fire engine for 11 years when he was promoted to deputy fire marshal in 1992.  In 2004 he was elevated to division chief again on December 1.  He was named assistant chief in October of 2009.

Fire Chief Kirk Waters remembered his first day on the job on a two-man engine when Sutton took him on a house fire call at the corner of Fremont and Alameda streets.  The garage was involved and threatening the house when they arrived on the scene.

Both firefighters recall clearly opening the garage door and being overwhelmed by flames causing them to immediately back out.  Neither was injured in the blaze but it was one they didn’t forget.

Waters reiterated that Sutton’s replacement must have a degree in building construction or fire prevention.  Even with that there will still be a lot to be learned, he said.

The fire that gutted the three-story hotel building at the corner of Sycamore and Yosemite Avenues in 1984 is also fresh in Sutton’s memory having pulled two men out of the flame- and smoke-filled building.  

He went through a second story window from a ladder and found the first man in the bedroom of an apartment right off the hall.  He said the building was fully engulfed – “except where I was” – the flames had already burned through the roof.  Sutton got the first victim out of the building before he went back inside and found another male who was down in the hallway.  They both suffered from smoke inhalation and later died, he remembered.  The historic Manteca hotel was totally gutted in the blaze with three people losing their lives.   In the early ‘80s it was known as the Shannon Apartments.

Sutton and his wife Lana have three daughters – all grown and working in their own professions.

He coached softball for years involving his girls from the ages of 5, and continued coaching even after they were out of school.

Tevanie Sutton was a pitcher for the Ripon Christian High School team and is now working as a receptionist in a hospital emergency room.  Daughter Janai Guthmiller played third base at Ripon Christian and is currently a registered dental assistant in Modesto working alongside her mother.  She was part of the Ripon Christian team in 1998 that won the state championship.

Nicole Sutton played right field at Ripon High School and is now working as a registered nurse in San Diego.

In addition to their involvement in baseball, the Sutton girls also left their mark in volleyball.

Manteca golfers can expect to see Randy Sutton on the Manteca course more frequently now as he says he needs to break 100 – that’s his immediate goal.  But, he adds, he has to stay busy in the future and he plans to do just that.
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