Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters, 54, is retiring this month after 29 years of working his way up through the ranks from firefighter to the leader of the fire service in the community — joining the department in the late ‘80s.
The department had only three fire stations with engines responding to calls with only two firefighters on board. He was assigned to the Powers Avenue station at the edge of the Powers Park subdivision at the beginning.
Waters was appointed chief in 2009 and he will next week be practicing as a respiratory therapist in the neonatal unit at Doctors Medical Center (DMC) in Modesto where he will be caring for premature babies who are in need of specialized care. Waters has worked quietly in that department on a part-time basis since 1982.
He described his role in dealing with mostly newborn preenies with breathing issues, “It’s very precious,” he said. He will be working long shifts two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at the same time, trying to devote more time in being a better dad and husband — “like I did with our older ones before I was chief.”
Waters explained that Doctors Medical Center was his second hospital, having practiced in the now shuttered old downtown Modesto City Hospital when he had an opportunity to rotate into DMC, saying he just fell in love with working with the babies.
A retirement open house — an ice cream social — is planned to celebrate the Chief’s tenure at the Manteca transit Center on Thursday from 1 until 4 p.m.
With parting thoughts toward his firefighters he said, “They are fantastic. We have a good leadership team and I feel confident I am leaving great people in charge — it can only get better.”
Waters said he is going to try for a balance after he leaves. “I will be here to help, but I’m not going to bother them.”
The chief has been known to lead numerous wildfire firefighting teams throughout the state during his tenure when called upon for mutual aid responding from the Manteca Fire Department.
Waters and his wife Shelly have six children from the oldest at 21 to the youngest at 10. The couple was married at the Oakland LDS Temple.
Ruth, 21, and Abigail, 20, both served as class valedictorians at Ripon High School and served on the school board as student board members offering their perspectives in the decision making processes. Ruth is now attending Stevens Tech in New York City majoring in Civil Engineering.
During her four years at Ripon High, she played basketball on the girls varsity team in the position of point guard.
Abigail, 20, is a junior at UCLA and majoring in Pre-Law.
Ellie, 17, is currently a senior at Ripon High and is planning to major in Speech Pathology at Maryville University in St. Louis, on a running scholarship.
Dallas, 15, is a sophomore at Ripon High, hoping to go to Brigham Young Universtiy when he graduates from high school. He has played both basketball and ran track at RHS and earned his way into becoming an Eagle Scout.
Lydia, 11, and Gideon, 10, are both being home schooled. Lydia is going into seventh grade and is an active swimmer and plays the cello. Gideon plays the violin and also competes in swimming.
After retiring from the fire department, Waters is planning to take nine Boy Scouts from Troop 440 on a 50 mile hike through the Immigrant Wilderness.