Chief Doug Fry, head of the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department, has announced his intention to retire after more than 35 years of fighting fires.
Fry made the announcement Monday, and will stay with the department through June. His departure will come months before the fire union between San Carlos and Belmont dissolves in October.
San Carlos Councilman Matt Grocott said he is under the impression that Chief Fry's decision to retire was compelled by the breakdown of the two cities sharing a fire department.
"If the department was staying together, he would be staying with us," said Grocott.
Repeated calls to Chief Fry for comment were not returned.
Once the contract binding the two cities expires, it is expected that Belmont will create its own fire department and that Redwood City will take over supplying fire services to San Carlos.
Grocott said Fry was an advocate for maintaining the union between Belmont and San Carlos, or going to the proposed regional model which would have featured fire services being provided on a countywide basis.
But in light of the separate direction the cities are headed, Chief Fry may have felt he would have been in the way and made the transition more confusing or difficult, said Grocott.
"He's concerned about getting in the way, because the department will be handed off to Redwood City if things go in the direction they are set to go now," said Grocott.
"He doesn't want to cause interference for Chief Skinner, who will have to be seen as the new chief," said Grocott, referring to Redwood City Fire Department Chief Jim Skinner.
But ultimately, Grocott said that he respected Chief Fry's decision and that he understood why he elected to retire rather than guide the department through the dissolution.
Belmont Mayor Coralin Feierbach said she too accepted the timing of Fry's announcement, and said that during his decision he likely utilized the same quality reasoning that made him such a respected leader in his career.
"Maybe he didn't want to wait," said Feierbach. "It would have been good for him to stay through the transition, but he had his own reasons."
"He is not a man that makes abrupt decisions. He thinks very hard about things and he isn't a flamboyant person. He mulls them over and makes his decision, so I respect it," said Feierbach.
Neither Grocott nor Feierbach had spoken with Fry since his announcement, but Grocott said he had attended his retirement party where he spoke with members of the fire department who worked under Fry, all of who expressed favorable opinions of him.
"They have deep respect for Chief Fry because he was a guy who came from the very bottom and through hard work and patience got to the top," said Grocott.
"When he started he had no ambition or idea that he would make it to the top. But since he came through that way, from within the organization, he had a lot of respect," said Grocott.
According to San Carlos Assistant City Manager Brian Moura, Fry was hired by Belmont Fire in 1975. He stayed with the department through the the formation of South County Fire Authority and later the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department.
Moura, Feierbach and Grocott all characterized Fry as a quiet and calm, yet strong, leader.
"He always did things in a very quiet way," said Feierbach. "There was never grandstanding or anything like that."
"He was very calm and had a lot of wisdom. He's a wonderful person. I rarely give compliments, but he is a very fine person," said Feierbach.
Feierbach noted the difficulty of having such a valuable asset as Fry retire.
"It's always unfortunate to see someone who is really good leave," she said. "He was an excellent fire chief."
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