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Lompoc Fire Chief Kurt Latipow Announces Retirement

Veteran firefighter recognized by City Council as he winds up 40-year career

Retiring Lompoc Fire Chief Kurt Latipow receives a proclamation Tuesday night from Mayor Bob Lingl.
Retiring Lompoc Fire Chief Kurt Latipow receives a proclamation Tuesday night from Mayor Bob Lingl. (City of Lompoc photo)
Lompoc Fire Chief Kurt Latipow is retiring at the end of June. Click to view larger
Lompoc Fire Chief Kurt Latipow is retiring at the end of June. (Contributed photo)

Lompoc Fire Chief Kurt Latipow will retire at the end of next month, concluding a 40-year career that included tenures with agencies across California and Nevada. 

Latipow, 67, was to be recognized at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting and presented with a plaque.

His retirement is effective June 30, marking five years since he took the helm.

“Lompoc was extremely fortunate to have a fire chief of Kurt Latipow’s caliber. He was not only a great leader for our fire department, but he has set the bar for how good fire departments are supposed to run,” City Manager Patrick Wiemiller said. “I wish Kurt and his wife, Gail, the best in life’s next adventure.”

The chief said he does not have any firm plans for retirement.

“I really enjoy coaching up-and-coming leaders, so I’m going to figure out a way to keep doing that,” he told Noozhawk. 

He also intends to get involved in the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

“And we’re going to start checking off items on our bucket list,” he said.

Latipow led the department’s response during the 692-acre Miguelito Fire, which threatened homes and prompted evacuations from southern Lompoc neighborhoods in 2014.

The incident helped drive home a key message often touted by Latipow — residents need to be prepared in case of a wildland fire or other natural disaster. The city holds regular Ready, Set, Go! disaster preparedness event annually.

“I think it was unfortunate disaster, however, it showed we live in an environment where we’re going to have fires and you need to be prepared,” Latipow said. 

Latipow came to Lompoc with deep experience as chief, previously leading agencies in Arroyo Grande, Ukiah, Hesperia and Stanislaus County.

The chief began his fire service career 40 years ago as a volunteer firefighter with Cal Fire in San Bernardino County. Prior to accepting the chief’s job in Lompoc, Latipow worked for Washoe County, Nevada, as fire services coordinator. 

Under Latipow’s leadership, the Fire Department developed a master plan, received a grant that added three positions, implemented a quick-attack rescue squad, welcomed a state-of-the-art wildland firefighting engine, and initiated an auxiliary firefighter program.

He admitted having many emotions as he gets set to say farewell.

“I hope the community realizes what a great group of people the city has,” Latipow said. “The entire cadre of employees in the city are top notch.”

The chief said his agency’s personnel approach every call with the same high level of customer service, whether it’s an emergency situation, a senior citizen who has fallen, or a child needing help fixing a bike.

“The Lompoc Fire Department team is an incredibly talented and dedicated group of individuals. It has been a great honor to lead this team and serve the citizens of Lompoc,” Latipow said.    

Latipow is a member of various organizations, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the California Fire Chiefs Association, and currently serves as president of the League of California Cities Fire Department.

Battalion Chief Mark Bray has been appointed interim fire chief until a permanent leader is appointed for the department, city officials said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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