First responders from around the county lined the wall of the Crescent City Council chambers Monday to hear the council honor now-retired Fire Chief Steve Wakefield with a proclamation, an honorary plaque, and heartfelt words of gratitude and best wishes.
Mayor Blake Inscore proclaimed Dec. 3 Fire Chief Steve Wakefield Day. The proclamation noted Wakefield started as a firefighter in 1976, becoming the chief 23 years ago, totaling 42 years of service to the community.
Wakefield suffered a severe stroke in January 2018 and another a month later. With wife Debra at his side and updating the community from various hospitals, Steve announced his retirement soon afterward.
The proclamation called Wakefield a driving force in combining Crescent City Fire and Rescue and Crescent City Fire Protection District, “to centralize strength while maintaining exceptional service.”
The proclamation said Wakefield led CCFR with pride and passion, “always leading from his heart, and has always been responsive to individuals physical and emotional pain while offering grace and mercy for every person’s emergency.”
It asked to dedicate the day in honor of his personal motto, “Service above self.”
“We ask citizens to take a moment of their day to perform a random act of kindness for another person, as this is what brings our community together,” Inscore said, reading the proclamation.
Inscore later asked the city staff to make Service Above Self Day, recognizing the efforts of Steve Wakefield and others an annual anniversary, as a challenge to community members to go above and beyond for their community. Staff received direction and will draft language for the next meeting Dec. 17.
City Manager and CCFR Firefighter Eric Wier said “Service over self” is a fitting motto for Wakefield.
“Steve is a very humble force,” Wier said, “one that is driven, one that persists through all adversity, he’s shown that over the years as a fire chief.” Wier said as a firefighter and as a city manager, he could not ask for a better mentor and leader.
“For that I am thankful,” he said, “and I think we should be thankful as a community to have had such a person like that with us.”
Police Chief Ivan Minsal addressed Wakefield directly, saying he knew no one when he arrived in Crescent City.
“You showed me what Crescent City is,” Minsal said, “a great place to live and grow. You are a true professional as a firefighter, an excellent administrator as a fire chief, but more importantly, you’re a great man. It’s been an honor to walk in your shadow, and on behalf of the men and women of Crescent City Police Department, we thank you for your service and wish you and Debbie a long and happy retirement.”
Sheriff’s Commander and fire Engineer Bill Steven addressed the crowd in both capacities, saying “this isn’t just a fire thing.” Steven said on many occasions, Wakefield assisted all local law enforcement whenever possible, providing water, lights and breathing assistance devices.
“He helped out and never said no,” Steven said, “so for that, I want to thank you as commander of the sheriff’s office.”
Steven added that working for Wakefield as a firefighter has felt more like Wakefield was a family member than a boss.
“For that, a double thank you,” Steven said.
“It seems like I’ve known Steve forever because I believe I have,” smiled County Chief Administrative Officer Jay Sarina, who spoke on behalf of the county and the Office of Emergency Services. Sarina said when he stepped into the position some 10 to 15 years ago, Wakefield’s calm, reasonable instruction helped him in the overwhelming transition.
Fire Battalion Chief Darrin Short reiterated that in 23 years as chief, Wakefield has responded to “every single call.” Short estimated that comes to about 1,500 calls a year, ranging from routine to extraordinary to tragic.
“To me, that’s a big thing to bear that on your shoulders, and to lead those folks responding from their homes and stations, and mentor them in the way they should go,” Short said. “I can’t speak enough about Steve’s leadership and the trials he had to go through to blend the two cultures of the Crescent City Volunteer Fire Department and the Volunteers of Crescent City Fire Protection District.”
Short said he is proud to have served under Wakefield, who he called “a living legend.”
Councilor Alex Fallman said the Wakefield name was always known to him as he grew up locally, and Steve has become a monument in that regard.
Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Kime recalled Wakefield’s help when she opened her business, but said until becoming a council member, she was unaware of just how hard he worked. Calling Wakefield’s fire radio “a brick,” Kime said she never saw him without it.
“That was a heavy brick to carry,” she said.
Councilor Jason Greenough said it’s been an honor to work with Wakefield for his knowledge, experience and willingness to do what needed to be done.
Inscore recalled that upon taking office four years ago, Wakefield showed him around the stations and around Crescent City.
“Steve said something to me that absolutely shaped how I approach being a member of this council,” Inscore said. “ He said, ‘Blake, I think the people elected you because they think you’re basically honest.’ I just nodded because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to respond, and he said ‘So, if you prove them right, you’ll do alright.’”
Inscore thanked Wakefield for the profound advice before presenting him with a framed copy of the proclamation and a large plaque.
Wakefield acknowledged many great people in the room and outside, as well as those who have come and gone.
“This isn’t a one-man thing,” Wakefield said. “It’s a whole bunch of people that put in a lot.”
Wakefield recognized and thanked his family, many of whom were in the room, and said he will continue to support the city.
The presentation concluded with the council, city staff, local first responders family and community members coming to their feet in applause for the now-retired chief.