“I walk up and the first thing that happens is this lady hands me this infant, ‘Here you go,’” Flock said, stretching his arms in the cradle position. “Blue, cyanotic, the mother is crying and I grab the child, turned it over upside down, did a couple of back thrusts on it and the obstruction dislodges and the child starts breathing and screaming.
“I wish I could see that person now. They are probably between 20 and 25 years old. It was a person who got a new shot at life because of something I did. That is what this is all about.”
The next words from Flock’s mouth Thursday afternoon were, “The Fire Chief job is very different from that.”
The six and a half years he spent as Fire Chief at SFD were some he never planned on experiencing when he signed up to be a volunteer firefighter in February of 1983. During his 30-year tenure, Flock was a firefighter, pump operator/driver, fire investigator, Captain, Battalion Chief and Chief of Operations before officially being named Fire Chief in April of 2007, the same year he retired from the Nevada Air National Guard after 30 years.
“I never joined the fire department to be the Fire Chief. Most people don’t,” Flock said. “I joined the fire department to be a firefighter and to help people. The greatest joy I have ever had in this organization is being on a fire engine and going to somebody’s home or a place where somebody needed help. We would show up and figure out a way to help you. As I look back on my career those are the fondest memories I have.”
The long-time Sparks resident’s retirement was made official Friday afternoon when Flock and his family and friends celebrated the years gone by. While he said he was not looking forward to ‘talking about Andy Flock,’ an unavoidable component of his retirement party, he was anxious to be around those who have supported him throughout his time as a firefighter.
“It’s an emotional rollercoaster to be quite honest,” he said. “I am looking forward to retirement, I really am. The Fire Chief’s job is a high-stress job. There is no doubt about that. But, when you do something for 30 years and you build the relationships with your fellow firefighters, it is going to be hard leaving.
“I am looking forward to spending more time with my grandchildren, more time with my mom and, in particular, with my wife. I want to do some traveling. I have a Harley I love riding and I will continue to do that and work on my golf game a little bit.”
Flock said he had plenty to be proud of as he recalled different programs, grants and strategies he implemented or continued as Fire Chief, but pointed to one achievement in particular that he was most proud of given the state of the economy during his tenure.
“When I first came in, I had a lot of ambitions and goals, and that quickly turned from a proactive to a reactive type of leadership and management style,” Flock said. “We have never closed a fire station. We have reduced staffing from a four-person staffing to three-person staffing. We provide a good service to the citizens of this community.
“Is it optimal? No, but it is good. The one thing I am most proud of is we have kept every engine in every fire station staffed and running and we have provided a good service out there to the communities.”
Sparks has continued to meet and exceed the response time standards of the state and national fire agencies under Flock’s supervision, which he credited to his “hard-working staff.” Whether it be senior personnel helping inform decisions or fire engine drivers waiting for the next emergency, Flock said he was blessed to be around the staff at SFD.
“I honestly believe we have some world-class people here,” he said. “They just do some phenomenal work and if I ever need a fire engine I want it to be somebody from Sparks showing up at my home. That is just the way I feel about them. I know what they are capable of.”
When the news clippings finally were spread out on the table and thumbed through, Flock said he was glad he looked back through them all. He cited one emergency after another and recalled his exact place in the house or along the roadside before breathing a gentle sigh of relief at the thought of spending much-needed time with his family.
“I have worked two careers almost all my life and I could not have done it without the support of my wife,” Flock said. “There are many times when you are a firefighter working those 24-hour shifts and you’re gone on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and all those things. I was very busy and I could not have done it without the support of my wife.
“Never forget your family, especially in this business, and I tell a lot of people that because they sacrifice a whole lot for us to be in this type of a profession.”