Get to Know Folsom Fire Chief Felipe Rodriguez
Folsom Fire Chief Felipe Rodriguez has fond memories of Christmas when he was seven or eight years old and the firefighters of Station 15 in San Francisco handed out toys to families in need—including his own. The kindness they showed his family still sticks with him. “It inspired me to become a firefighter,” he shares. “It made me appreciate life and take advantage of every opportunity I was given.”
Despite the many obstacles in his path, Rodriguez fulfilled his dream of becoming a firefighter in his own right. He also spent over nine years in the U.S. Navy Reserve; after 9/11, he was deployed to Guantanamo Bay in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Upon his return, he continued working his way up the fire service ranks, from firefighter to division chief, and was hired as Folsom Fire Department’s chief in June, where his goal is to form deeper partnerships with fire personnel, city staff and local businesses through the Folsom Chamber of Commerce—in addition to upholding the department’s reputation of “service with a smile.”
Now a happily married father of five, Rodriguez hasn’t forgotten the lessons of his childhood and has firm plans for the department to continue participating in the annual Christmas toy drives. “You never know when a Christmas toy drive will inspire a child to [become] a firefighter—and maybe even a fire chief,” he says, acknowledging that kids should be able to become anything they want. “We should do everything we can to help and guide them.”
By Amber Foster // Photos by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Never allow anyone to discourage you from becoming anything you want to become. It’s your attitude, desire, dedication, and trust in the future that gives you the confidence to follow your heart, and ultimately allows you to persevere and accomplish anything.
What comes to you naturally?
Being kind to others.
Biggest life inspiration?
My grandfather, Rosendo Alvarez. He was a bracero back in the 1940s, where he worked for nine months out of each year (for almost 20 years) within California’s agricultural fields. His example and hard work paved the way for me to take full advantage of the opportunities set before me.
Favorite humanitarian cause?
Children. It brings joy to my heart when I see a child smile. Their innocence compares to nothing else. Some of my fondest memories are the times I spent volunteering at a children’s hospital in Chicago while completing Hospital Corpsman training and visiting burn camp. After all those children had gone through, their laughter put everything else into perspective.
Best words of wisdom you’ve received?
“Never pass up an opportunity.”—Retired Army Master Sergeant Carlton Taylor.
Camping in the mountains
Meal in town
Hacienda Del Rio and Sutter Street Taqueria
A Christmas Story
Place to buy a gift, locally
Any shop in Historic Folsom
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for their friends.”