Iowa City Fire Chief Andy Rocca, an Iowa City native who has served with the city’s fire department for nearly 35 years, has announced he will retire May 13.
Rocca joined the fire department in 1978 as a firefighter. He was promoted to fire lieutenant in 1987, followed by a series of other promotions. He was named fire chief in 1996.
“He’s well-known, he’s well-liked in the community and the department, and he’s done a great job in developing a really fine operation,” City Manager Tom Markus said.
Markus said there are solid internal candidates to replace Rocca, but he likely will do a national search. If an Iowa City firefighter ends up being selected, that person will have competed against the best candidates and it will make the new chief and department stronger, he said.
Rocca oversees a 65-member department, as well as emergency operations including fire suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials response and technical rescue. The department has four fire stations and a training center.
“The city has been extremely fortunate to have benefited from someone of Chief Rocca’s caliber for nearly 35 years,” City Manager Tom Markus said in a prepared statement.
“He is a consummate professional and his impact on the Iowa City Fire Department and this community will be forever lasting. We will greatly miss his leadership, but we congratulate him and wish him and his family the best in the many years ahead.”
Rocca led the department during high-profile fires, including the March 1999 blaze that destroyed a downtown building that housed Mondo’s Sports Cafe and several levels of apartments. One of the largest fires in eastern Iowa, the blaze caused $4.76 million in damage and left more than a dozen residents homeless.
The same month, Iowa City firefighters fought a fire set by Jonathan Memmer to conceal the bodies of two women he murdered in an apartment left vacant over spring break 1999.
The Iowa City Fire Department was awarded Accredited Agency Status in 2008, becoming one of only 128 agencies worldwide to be recognized as such by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. The Insurance Services Office, which conducts insurance risk analyses for businesses and municipalities, upgraded Iowa City’s Public Protection Classification to a Level 2. Nationwide, only 716 fire-protection areas, or less than 1.5 percent of the 48,000 areas reviewed, achieve Level 1 or Level 2 status.