Jeff’s passion and love for the fire service, including wildland firefighting as an air tactical group supervisor (ATGS) for the U.S. Forest Service, spanned 42 years and three fire departments.
His career started at age 20 in Phoenix, Arizona, with Rural Metro Fire. He moved to Tucson in 1984 as a captain with Northwest Fire District (NWFD), whose services were contracted by Rural Metro Fire.
In 1988, he became their district chief and took on the task of transitioning out of contract services with Rural Metro, ultimately creating NWFD as their own governmental district. Jeff became their first official fire chief, a title he held for 24 years. After retiring from NWFD, Jeff took the fire chief job in Stockton, California, to assist them through their bankruptcy. Completing that task in three years, he then went to Sedona, Arizona, as an assistant chief for two years before being drawn back to Tucson.
Throughout his long career, he served on four separate NFPA committees, was a board member at the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE), contributed significantly to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and was a fellow with the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE). Jeff was a founder of the Arizona Fire Service Institute (AFSI) and a respected leader of both the Arizona Fire Chiefs and Arizona Fire Districts Associations.
In 2005, he was the Arizona Fire Service Chief Officer of the Year.
He built the Ironwood Hotshot Crew, 2007-2015.
In 2015, he was inducted into the Arizona Fire Service Hall of Fame.
“Chief Pie” was dedicated to excellence and had the commitment and drive to make the fire service a better and safer place for the men and women who serve.
Jeff “Pie in the Sky” tragically lost his life on July 10, 2021, when the aircraft he was flying in crashed while he was working as an air tactical group supervisor (ATGS) on the Cedar Basin Fire near Wikieup, Arizona. He leaves behind his “lovely bride” Donna, five adult children, and four beautiful grandchildren.
Jeff’s entire mission and message was to serve, not yourself, not the badge or the patch, but the community. Mission accomplished!
Jeff was a true servant leader! His passion for the fire service is unmatched! He was also a dedicated husband, father and true friend! He was so proud of his family!
Jeff Bob we miss you! Not a day goes by that I don’t! Your influence is all over! I love you brother!– Randy Karrer
Miss you old friend!– Mike Casson