By Pat Jenkins
Reggie Romines thought he was going to be an accountant until he started calling a fire station home.
Forty years later, Romines is settling into retirement after his final day last Friday as fire chief of Graham Fire and Rescue. Golf, grandkids and winters in Arizona will be his fulltime avocation now.
“I truly enjoyed every day,” Romines said of his career in the firefighting. “The level of satisfaction will be hard to replace. The people I worked with are just outstanding. They made it fun to go to work”
Romines joined the Graham department in 1984 as deputy chief of operations. He became chief in 1999, overseeing an agency with five fire stations that serves approximately 90 square miles and a population of about 60,000.
In the mid-1970s, Romines, who was born and raised in Eureka, Calif., unexpectedly found himself in the role of an 18-year-old, live-in volunteer firefighter in Coos Bay, Ore. He was attending Southwest Oregon Community College, studying to become an accountant, when the school’s track coach helped line up a free room for him – a 16-bed dormitory for firefighters at the town’s fire station. He and the other firefighters slid down a fire pole from the upstairs sleeping quarters when there was a fire call. That’s how he left to go to classes, too.
“I was planning to be an accountant. Then I discovered firefighting,” Romines said.
He stayed on as a professional firefighter with the Coos Bay department, eventually heading operations before leaving in 1984 and moving to Washington to join Graham Fire and Rescue. As he rose through the ranks there, the accounting skills he learned in school served him well in helping manage budgets.
His fellow firefighters threw a retirement party for him last Friday at the headquarters fire station. The day before, he said he wasn’t sure how emotional his last day on the job and the party, which he hoped would be “festive,” might be for him. “I’ve put off thinking about it,” he said.
The 58-year-old Romines and and his wife, Janice, who retired two weeks before him from her job as manager of a dental office, “will be hitting some golf courses,” he said. But not right away, as he has to wait for a cast to come off a wrist from some recent surgery.
The couple will be snowbirds, splitting time between Scottsdale, Ariz., where Romines noted “it’s a lot warmer for golf in the winter,” and Washington, where their six children and four grandchildren live. A daughter is getting married this summer.
Also heading into retirement is Kathy Hale, administration services director for the fire department and Romines’ secretary. He credited her for “enabling me to be successful in this job.”
Romines also thanked the community for “the support it has given the department and me. I’ll remain active in the community, and I hope the people will join me in supporting the courageous people who serve in this department.”
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