Fire Chief Ruben Torres is stepping down from the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department next month after agreeing to become the next leader of the Santa Clara Fire Department, LPFD officials announced on Friday.
A longtime firefighter and former fire chief in San Jose, Torres led LPFD for just over four years as the fourth permanent fire chief since the two cities' fire departments merged in 1996.
Assistant fire chief Jeff Peters has been selected as interim fire chief to lead LPFD while Pleasanton and Livermore leaders recruit for the department's next permanent leader -- a process that could extend into 2020.
"I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to lead not only one, but two cities in their joint fire protection services, and am proud of what the department has accomplished during my service in Livermore and Pleasanton. I will always be grateful for this unique opportunity," Torres said in a statement Friday morning.
Torres took the helm at LPFD in February 2015 after 29 years with the San Jose Fire Department, where he'd claimed the ranks from an entry-level firefighter all the way up to fire chief of the nation's 10th largest fire department at the time. Torres said he was attracted to the LPFD position for the chance to lead a smaller department.
He will now return to his native South Bay, taking over for retiring Fire Chief Bill Kelly at the Santa Clara Fire Department, effective June 30, after rising to the top in Santa Clara's nationwide recruitment process.
"I look forward to working in partnership with the community and building upon the great work that the Santa Clara Fire Department has accomplished over the past several years," Torres said in a statement released by that city. "As fire chief, I recognize the importance of our organization being well-positioned and nimble to address the service delivery demands of a growing city while also continuing to deliver extraordinary service for Santa Clarans."
Pleasanton and Livermore city leaders praised Torres for key efforts during his tenure with LPFD, including spearheading an update to the cities' joint-powers agreement for fire service, modernizing the department's fire apparatus and diversifying the department's workforce to better reflect the populations of both communities.
"The city of Pleasanton is grateful for Chief Torres' leadership," City Manager Nelson Fialho said in a statement. "His effective, results-driven approach has created the necessary framework for a world-class fire department that will operate well beyond his tenure. I'm very thankful for his service and his leadership of the department."
Livermore City Manager Marc Roberts added that his city benefited greatly from Torres' leadership and firefighting background.
"He demonstrated an exceptional ability to provide outstanding fire protection service to our two cities, and for that our communities have been better served. I am pleased to have had Ruben at the helm of LPFD and appreciative for his high level of professionalism," Roberts said.
The two cities will now coordinate on recruiting for the LPFD's next permanent fire chief, with Peters taking the reins on an interim basis in the meantime. Peters, who was born and raised in Livermore, has served as a firefighter in his hometown for nearly three decades, including the last four years as LPFD's assistant fire chief.
The upcoming hiring process is expected to last between six and eight months.
City leaders have said in the past that a major factor affecting recruitment is that the LPFD fire chief reports to both city managers and two separate City Councils while overseeing services for residents in two different cities.
The LPFD is governed by a JPA board of directors -- a subcommittee of city councils -- while the city managers of Livermore and Pleasanton serve as the department's joint executive directors. The JPA has allowed for more efficient administration and cost-effective delivery of fire services in Pleasanton and Livermore, according to leaders with both cities.