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Farewell to Chief Kurt Norwood

 

Arcadia Fire Chief Kurt Norwood. - Courtesy photo

Arcadia Fire Chief Kurt Norwood. – Courtesy photo

 

By Katta Hules 

Chief Kurt Norwood is retiring from the Arcadia Fire Department. “I’ve got a little over 30 years in the fire service, over 29 years here in Arcadia. There are other things I’d like to do while I’m relatively young and still healthy,” says Norwood, adding, “It’s been a great career.”

The chief took an interest in public safety at a young age, torn between following his mother’s footsteps into the police or his father’s into the fire department. By high school, however, he had set his heart on firefighting because, while both his parents loved their jobs, “when I would go to the fire station to visit my dad it was just more of a feeling of family and camaraderie. It just had a different vibe to it … and the line of work just appealed [to me] more.”

Norwood began taking classes at community colleges in El Camino and Torrance and passed a fire department test before joining the Arcadia Fire Department in 1987. “I had some good mentors and I got involved with a lot of different aspects of the fire department and found … I enjoyed making the department a better place to work.” He moved up the ranks quickly, becoming a paramedic in 1991, a captain in 1998, then battalion chief in 2003. As battalion chief he also served as fire marshal and training officer, and oversaw several departments. He was promoted to deputy chief in 2011 and became acting chief in 2013 before being permanently installed in the position in 2014. “I’m very proud of my career. I would have never, early in my career, aspired [to] or thought I’d end up being the fire chief.”

As he looks back at his time in the department, Norwood remembers fellow firefighters who have passed, especially Andy Troncale, who succumbed to his battle with cancer in 2012, and Mike Herdman, who got lost hiking in 2014. “As far as moments that stick with you, you know with a department like this and you live with these people 24 hours a day, seven days a week … when … one of them tragically d[ies]… because of how tight we are…” The chief goes quiet and seems to be lost in thought.

He rouses himself a moment later to give some advice for his yet unnamed replacement. “You don’t need to change everything. There’s a lot of good things that we do here in the Arcadia Fire Department … you don’t need to go in [with the] idea that you need to change everything to do it the way that you think it should be done. You find the area[s] that need improvement, you tweak ‘em.” Norwood’s goal coming into his office was to “leave it just as good or a little bit better.”

The chief, who teaches in a firefighter program at Rio Hondo College, has advice for aspiring firefighters as well. “When you go into public safety you have to have good moral character and you have to make good decisions.” He urges hopeful firefighters to think all their choices, big and small, through before making them. “First and foremost, if you have something in your background that’s going to prohibit you from being a firefighter then don’t do it. … Most of the issues young people get into today, they have a chance to make a decision, to say ‘yes, that’s a good idea’ or ‘no, that’s a bad idea’ and change that course of action.”

Norwood has much to occupy his time once he leaves the fire department. He wants to travel, spend more time with his children, and tackle some household projects. “When you work every day, five days a week and you leave your weekends to do projects at home, they become more and more tough to do.” Additionally, he will continue to teach at Rio Hondo College and does not rule out continuing to work in the fire service. “I’m not completely walking away from the fire service. … [but] I’ve got a full slate of things to keep me busy, at least for a year.”

The chief is pleased with his time in the Arcadia Fire Department. “I have no regrets and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” His last day will be July 9, and though the position is still up in the air, Norwood expects that to be cleared up soon. “The city manager right now is exploring his options and I think he’ll be making an announcement shortly.”

 

June 28, 2016

About Author

Katta Hules Katta Hules is an artist and a writer currently based in California. She is an Editor at TUBE. Magazine, and a freelance writer for Arcadia Weekly. She is in the throes working on her first novel.


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