CALEXICO, Calif. - Calexico Fire Chief Pete Mercado said that after 24 years of service it was hard for him to make the call.
“It’s a very challenging time right now to depart,” Mercado said.
And especially at a moment when many challenges face the department.
“Financial stability and understanding how much we can spend, and really right-sizing our department for the response,” Mercado said.
The department needs an updated facility for the area they serve.
“Very poor facilities right now and operate out of them a very busy station,” Mercado said.
Recently six firefighters got layoff notices.
“The six positions that the firefighters were given the notices that venture has terminated so it’s business as usual for us,” Mercado said, clarifying that the firefighters were still employed.
On top of that, the city is in financial crisis.
“We’re in a very difficult economic time right now for our city,” Mercado said.
He’s now the assistant chief for state emergency services.
“It provides me a large avenue to impact more people. So, I’m up for that challenge,” Mercado said.
He will serve six counties, including Imperial Valley. He said it’s a bitter-sweet moment.
“Excited about moving on to new things, but a little sad about leaving a place I’ve worked at for twenty-four years,” Mercado said.
Fire Captain Diego Favila is the new Interim Fire Chief.
“To assume all roles and responsibilities in my absence until they solicit a full-time position later on at a date to be determined. But as of right now he will continue the operations here and he’s a very suitable candidate for the position,” Mercado said.
Mercado said he takes great memories with him.
“There’s so many in twenty-four years, major incidents that we’ve been involved with, a lot of tragedies that really kind of broke our hearts,” Mercado said.
He added that the city’s financial situation is not a factor in his departure.
“No, I don’t think it was. I know the timing seems like it was, but it wasn’t,” Mercado said.