WFD's Chief Temerowski: A chief's chief

By Shawn Byrne

Sun Editor/Photographer

The Wickenburg Fire Department has been making a name for itself over the years, and while Chief Ed Temerowski has been a common sight for nearly 30 years, he is quick to point out there have been a lot of people involved in his and the department’s successes.

Almost 20 of his nearly 30 years has been spent as chief. Temerowski took over the department in September 2001, and his peers around the state have nothing but good things to say about Wickenburg’s fire chief.

“One thing with Ed is that he has worked behind the scenes for many years,” said Keith Eaton, assistant chief for Kingman Fire Department. “He’s not one who will brag about who he is or what he does. Ed does the work. He doesn’t need the accolades.”

When Temerowski took over as WFD’s chief (at the relatively young age of 30), he advanced it from a volunteer organization to a combination volunteer-paid organization. Then, within a couple of years, WFD became an all-paid firefighter department.

“When I came on board that was my first mission,” the chief said. “We had to get more folks here more often.”

Temerowski does much more than leading WFD. He’s got irons in the fire at both the region and state levels, and recently was elected chair of the Arizona State Fire Training Committee (ASFTC) executive board. He’s been on that committee’s command staff since 2009. Temerowski also is a section chair for the training section with Arizona Fire Chief’s Association but will surrender this post in the coming months due to his election as chair for ASFTC.

“I’m fortunate enough to get to where I’m at with a lot of people helping me along the way,” the chief said. “I’ve gotten to a point in my career where there’s a lot more looking back than there is looking ahead as far as how many more years you are going to be doing the same job. You get to the point you want to start giving back.”

Chair of the ASFTC leads the committee in planning and developing all of its fire school programs. ASFTC is a volunteer, nonprofit, statewide organization that assists in developing and implementing fire service training through its annual Arizona State Fire School and has been involved since the first school in 1973.

Fire School has from 800 to 1,000 students each year. There are 37 classes over the course of five days with multiple offsite training facilities throughout the Phoenix area.

Central Arizona Fire & Medical Authority Fire Chief Scott Freitag sees Temerowski as the perfect piece to fit into the chair’s seat of the statewide training puzzle.

“Since the time I’ve been in Arizona, he has been a terrific resource,” Freitag said. “His knowledge is unparalleled, and his passion for teaching is amazing.”

Temerowski has been training firefighters for some time. In the early- to mid-2000s, he and a partner started up Arizona Regional Fire Academy. His involvement in ASFTC became intensive when the state of Arizona got out of the business of training firefighters. Arizona is the only state in which that government does not operate a training program, though it does give ASFTC funding.

“We found ourselves in a conundrum,” Temerowski said, reflecting on that time period. “Quite a few of us from around the state, the Arizona Fire Chiefs committees and state training committee, came up with the Arizona Center for Fire Service Excellence.”

Two employees of the Arizona Fire Marshall’s Office were laid off when the state removed itself, but they were quickly hired by ASFTC, which manages the fire center. Freitag, a relative newcomer to Arizona having moved here from Missouri about six-and-a-half years ago, was immediately impressed with how things operate in Arizona.

“I give props to Arizona Fire Service for everything they have put together,” Freitag said. “When I came here I was amazed. This group does a fantastic job and is as good as any other state running its own.”

Temerowski is also chairman of the Yavapai County EMS Chiefs Association and acts as the duty officer for the Hassayampa Zone when it comes to wildfire response between the months of April and October.

“I manage the responding and coordinating the multiple agencies and resources,” Temerowski said. “I work a lot with BLM, the U.S. Forest Service and Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.”

WFD is the only department the chief has ever worked at, he started in 1992. When he was in college he had his sights set on becoming a brand inspector for the state of Arizona. Residents of Wickenburg should be happy it didn’t work out the way he first planned.

“I send my guys to various trainings, and I’ll follow up two to three months later,” he said. “All the training chiefs tell me my guys know their stuff and are spot on. It’s very rewarding to know we’re recognized as being legit around the state.”

WFD isn’t a bona fide department because of Temerowski. He’s the first to tell you that.

“It’s all about the people we have working for us,” the chief said. “It’s moved the department to another level.”

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