For the first time in more than 100 years, the Santa Maria Fire Department lacks a member of the Crakes family.
Battalion Chief Thomas Crakes — also known as Tommy, TC and Tom — received a City Council resolution this week noting his retirement, effective last month, after 36 years with the department
“It’s truly an honor to have known Tommy for my entire career, to have worked side by side with him, and to be here today celebrating his career,” Fire Chief Leonard Champion said.
“You had such an impact on our department in so many areas, and I’m feeling it today,” Champion said. “The day you left we were trying to figure out how to fill the gap and the void.
“It’s all about relationships — you care about this community, you care about our department, and more than that you care about the men and women of the Fire Department,” Champion said. “Thank you for your support. Thank you for your service. You will be missed.”
Next month, the family’s multi-generational service will be recognized in a separate ceremony, according to the chief.
Santa Maria City Councilman Mike Cordero, a retired police lieutenant, recalled encountering a man on a fishing trip off the coast of Mexico and hearing strong praise about a Santa Maria firefighter they eventually identified as Crakes.
“He had to make sure that I knew this guy was an outstanding city (representative),” Cordero said. “You left an impression.”
In a testament to his service and the family’s legacy, dozens of firefighters and several retirees filled the council chambers for the meeting where Crakes, who typically avoids the spotlight, was honored. Crakes sat in the front row between his wife, Brenda Crakes, and sister, Peggy Oswald.
Before Crakes, his dad and grandfather worked at the city Fire Department.
His father, Wright Crakes, rose through the ranks to serve as chief of the department from 1972 to 1993.
And Clarence Crakes began the family’s firefighting career by joining the department in 1911.
The newest Crakes joined the city in 1984 as a call firefighter and with a short stint for the Public Works Department.
He was hired to a full-time job in 1988 as an engineer-in-training, promoted to captain in 1999, and battalion chief in 2015.
In 1989, Crakes received the department’s Firefighter of the Year Award.
Over the years, Crakes supervised the acquisition and build-up of new fire apparatus, including a new ladder truck, assisted with the upgrade of the city’s new Computer-Aided Dispatch system, and helped with the installation of mobile data computers in fire vehicles, city leaders said.
Fire Department retiree Jack Owen Jr. recalled meeting Crakes when he was 11 years old.
“His dad was great to work for,” Owen said, recalling Wright Crakes designing unique apparatus to aid firefighters doing their job.
Like his dad, Tom Crakes loved to work on mechanical equipment.
“If something broke, he fixed it,” Owen said.
“His knowledge of our radio system is legendary,” added Public Information Manager Mark van de Kamp,
Crakes also has belonged to the Los Padres Incident Management team, and has served as a logistics section chief on numerous wildland fires.
“This is a big thank you to all of you for being there, even the ones that are retired that helped show the way and pave the way, and hopefully I did the same for the new ones coming in,” Crakes said.
“And remember, take care of each other,” he added.