Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters is leaving city employment to work as a respiratory therapist helping with sick newborns at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
Waters’ last day as fire chief is July 24.
“It’s been a tremendous ride,” Waters said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better career, I’ve gotten to do everything in the fire service I ever wanted; it just seems natural to take on a new challenge.”
Waters has served as fire chief for the past seven years.
During his watch:
uManteca opened the fourth fire station on Lathrop Road.
uStarted design work on the sixth fire station planned for Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue.
uThe city’s100-foot aerial platform fire engine was shifted to the Powers Avenue station to better position it to be closer to larger structures as well as improve response times.
uResponse times were reduced despite a record 6,615 calls in 2015. Emergency calls swelled by more than 40 percent during Waters’ tenure.
uThe department kept service impacts at a minimum during budget cuts imposed by the Great Recession. Waters worked with the firefighters association to renegotoiated their contract of three firefighters per engine company that was forcing in excess of $400,000 a year in overtime pay. They also came up with a departmental reorganization that saved additional money.
uThe city hired six new firefighters using a federal grant with the goal of building up staffing to man a sixth fire station.
uThe city opened an emergency operations center.
Waters, 54, is originally from San Mateo where he attended high school before moving to Montero near Half Moon Bay. His senior year of high school was at Oakdale. Waters ran and competed in the high jump as a high school track athlete. He also was a forward in basketball.
He was working as a respiratory therapist when he decided on a fire servcie career. It appealed to him due to the chance for advancement. The idea was brought up by his father who worked as a firefighter and eventually retired as a captain.
“Growing up I had no interest in being a firefighter,” Waters said in an interview with the Bulletin shortly after being appointed fire chief.
He took fire science courses as Modesto Junior College and Delta College and earned an associate at the University of Phoenix where he also earned a degree in business administration.
His first job 29 years ago was being hired as a Manteca firefighter.
On Waters’ first day on the job he was riding in the backward facing seats in the cab when he noticed a large number of children waving at the firemen as they passed.
“I never realized how excited kids got seeing fire trucks and firefighters,” Waters said in the earlier interview.
Waters has — or is serving — on the boards of the Boys & Girls Club of Manteca/Lathrop, the Second Harvest Food Bank, and the Raymus HOPE Family Shelter. He also has coached youth basketball for the Manteca Parks and Recreation as well as at elementary schools for years.
Waters is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program. He has a Masters degree in Business Administration. He has been married to his wife, Shelly, for 23 years. They have six children and live in Ripon.
Since 1982 Waters has maintained his Respiratory Therapist License and has served in various capacities in the hospital setting on his days off from his fire career.
Helping those in need has always been a passion of Waters and is what originally led him to a career in the fire service.
“The biggest thing I will miss is the amazing fire department family; from our firefighters to our fire prevention to the administrative staff,” Waters said. “They have provided such a great example for me over the years. It’s going to be hard to let go.”