by Laila Samimi
Inside Fire Chief Daniel Madrigal’s office at Redondo Beach Fire Station 1, the phone rings constantly, the radio dispatch hums all day, paperwork piles up, and meetings never seem to cease. One recent Monday morning, however, Madrigal stepped into his office with a serene confidence, ready to take on the challenges of the week with a smile.
“I’ve got the best job in the world,” said Madrigal. “No day is the same; every day is just so different. And you know what? That’s what makes it so fun and so exciting. I can’t believe they pay me to do this.”
Capping a career in the fire service spanning over three decades with four different agencies, Madrigal has announced that he will retire on December 14, 2012. With years of experience at Stanton and Huntington Beach Fire Departments, Madrigal started working for the City of Redondo Beach in 2002 as a fire division chief. He was quickly promoted to fire chief in 2005. The 55-year-old father of two has since been responsible for the department’s constant preparedness in emergency situations, including various deployments to wildfires throughout the state and the Redondo marina’s “sardine-tsunami” crisis of March 2011.
Under Madrigal’s watch, Redondo Beach maintained its class-II fire suppression rating, putting the city in the top one percent of all fire departments in the United States. His leadership has paved the way for numerous grants used for enhanced department technology, dispatch systems, harbor revitalization, and various maintenance projects around the city.
City Manager Bill Workman praised Chief Madrigal’s work for the city of Redondo. “Every time we have had an emergency situation, Dan has been totally focused and has carried out the right thing to protect our city,” said Workman. “I can always count on him on a moment’s notice in a crisis situation.”
Having grown up in the Orange County area and currently residing in Laguna Hills, Madrigal has been commuting to work each day for ten years. When asked how he feels about contributing so much to a city he does not even reside in, Madrigal answered, “You know, it’s what we do. Whether we live there or not, we take these jobs with the intent to do the best we can with the resources and funding that is available. I think it’s wonderful that the community here has welcomed me the way they have in the past 10 years.”
Workman commended Madrigal’s professional demeanor, openness, honesty, and foresight in looking ahead and being able to manage through some of the most difficult budget years Redondo Beach has seen. But he didn’t forget to mention Madrigal’s infamous sense of humor.
When asked about some of his favorite parts of the job, Madrigal admitted that he loves playing good-hearted practical jokes on other city officials, including Redondo Beach Police Chief Joe Leonardi. “We have so much fun,” Madrigal said with a laugh while reminiscing on the many practical jokes the two have played on each other.
“We’ve had a really great relationship,” said Leonardi. “And when you have a good relationship among the chiefs, you have a good relationship all the way down the organization. It makes a huge difference. I will really miss him, and I have enjoyed working with him.”
Madrigal admits that the decision to retire from his dream job was not easy. “It was a purely personal choice,” he said. “I’m excited now, but at first it was really a hard decision because I love my job. It’s been great, but it’s time to look to other things. I’m looking forward to spending time with my dad and my children.”
Madrigal received his bachelor’s degree in education and possesses a master’s degree and a community college teaching credential. Once he retires, he hopes to pursue a part-time teaching position in fire technology.
When looking back on his experiences serving Redondo, Madrigal said, “I’m truly going to miss it — the people, the work, the city, and my co-workers. The firefighters here are amazing. Whoever becomes the next chief is going to inherit a top-notch fire department.” ER