Burbank Fire Chief Eric Garcia Says Goodbye After 30 Years and Welcomes Chief Danny Alvarez to Position

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(Photo Courtesy of BFD. By Ross A Benson)

On September 1st, 2023, the Burbank Fire Department held a Retirement Celebration for Fire Chief Eric Garcia, commemorating his almost 30 years of service in the department. Following the ceremony was the Change of Command for Fire Chief Danny Alvarez, who is returning to Burbank after 18 months away from the department.

Chief Garcia has had a distinguished career spanning three decades in which he has held every rank within the Burbank Fire Department. He served as Chief Officer beginning in 2012 and was appointed by the City Manager as Fire Chief in December 2017. Garcia is also a certified State of California Chief Officer with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Organizational Leadership from Brandman University.

Burbank Firefighters came to attend the ceremony from different stations around the city, as well as firefighters from Glendale, Pasadena, and Santa Monica.  Deputy Fire Chief Mark Hatch opened up the ceremony with a welcome and introduction. The official transfer between Fire Chief Eric Garcia and Danny Alvarez is important because it allows for the department to never be without official leadership. 

Fire Chiefs from several nearby Departments attended and helped honor Chief Eric Garcia’s retirement. (Photo Courtesy of BFD. By Ross A Benson)

Representatives from local offices presented Chief Garcia with certificates including a Certificate of Commendation from Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Certificate of Recognition from Senators Caroline Menjivar and Anthony Portantino, an Assembly Resolution from Assembly Member Laura Friedman, and an Award of Excellence from Burbank City Manager Justin Hess.

“Eric’s vision and leadership has brought all 29 departments in the L.A. region together like I’ve never seen. He’s created trust, respect, collaboration, and it’s really something to see,” said Jim Birrell from the Los Angeles Area Fire Chiefs Association and retired Fire Chief, who spoke emotionally about the sacrifice and thoughtfulness that Chief Garcia has given to those around him over the past 30 years.

Pasadena Fire Chief Chad Augustin, who has worked closely with Chief Garcia, took to the podium to express his gratitude and respect. “I’ve loved watching him navigate challenging conversations that are filled with passion and emotion. His highly skilled communication style always brings emotions down and helps everyone find consensus,” said Chief Augustin. 

Mayor Konstantine Anthony spoke eloquently about the two versions of Chief Garcia- one as the Burbank firefighter and one as our Burbank Fire Chief, and how he provided hope and resiliency to the people of the city. “You are a leader not just here but across the country,” said Mayor Anthony. “When we think about retirement, we think about legacy, it always goes hand in hand. Be proud of the work that you did.”

Chief Garcia gave an emotional and touching speech thanking those in his department, friends, family, and colleagues who have been there for him and allowed him to give his all to the city of Burbank. “I talk a lot about legacy, and there comes a day when an athlete or firefighter takes off the uniform for the last time, and it’s going to be extremely tough,” said Chief Garcia, who will be hanging up his fire uniform for the last time today. On the inside he said he is smiling because he is so proud to watch his son, Bobby Jack, take on a new role at Burbank Water and Power and continue the Garcia legacy by putting on a new uniform for the city. 

Chief Garcia closed his remarks by presenting a silver bell to the Burbank Fire Department, in which the plaque read: This bell represents the tradition, lineage, and future of the Greatest Firefighters to serve in our noble profession.” 

Following the Retirement Celebration was the Change of Command Ceremony for Fire Cheif Danny Alvarez. Deputy Fire Chief Mark Hatch swore Chief Alvarez into his position, and his wife, Natalia Alvarez, pinned his badge on him. Chief Alvarez has already dedicated 25 years to the Burbank Fire Department, including serving in the role of Deputy Fire Chief. He has been acting as the Santa Monica Fire Chief for the last 18 months but is coming home to Burbank to continue the legacy that Chief Garcia is leaving behind.

After the ceremony concluded, guests took pictures with Chief Garcia and Chief Alvarez while enjoying a beautiful spread of pastries, desserts and coffee.

Video reel from the ceremony:

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