Lufkin Fire Chief Ted Lovett stepped down on June 26 as head of the fire department.

“Earlier this year I announced my six-year intent to retire (which will be in 2025) per policy of the Lufkin Firemen’s Relief and Retirement Fund,” he said. “I will remain with the department as a battalion chief overseeing a shift of firefighters and EMS personnel.”

We’re going to miss him.

Lovett, a Huntington High School graduate, has worn many hats during a career spanning more than 30 years with the department. He was named interim chief in June 2011 and the interim tag was dropped in October of that year. Starting as a firefighter, Lovett’s route to becoming chief included stints serving as emergency medical services coordinator, battalion chief and training chief. He also served as the regional advisory council representative and the equipment acquisition coordinator. Before joining the department, he was a munition and missile specialist with the Air Force.

“It is a very humbling and great honor to lead such a professional organization,” Lovett said in a statement when he was named chief.

And along the way, he’s seen major changes in the way firefighters and paramedics are educated, trained and work. Lufkin Fire began providing ambulance service to Angelina County in 1966, and was one of the first fire departments in the state to provide that service.

Today, the agency is an all-hazards emergency response department providing fire suppression and rescue, emergency medical services with paramedics and ambulances, a 21-member hazardous materials team, fire inspections, fire code enforcement and arson investigation, along with public information and education.

The department responded to 9,308 calls for emergency ambulance services in 2018. Of those, 6,571 were treated and transported to a local medical facility. In addition, several severe trauma and burn patients were transported to a designated trauma facility or burn unit via air medical services. Department statistics break those numbers down: 191 responses to fires involving structures, vehicles and Dumpsters. There were 2,104 calls for rescue and EMS response where the engine crew assisted the ambulance crew with patient care, special rescue or vehicle extrication. There were 212 hazardous condition calls, 434 service calls, 858 good intent calls, 315 false alarms, one severe weather and eight special incidents.

In addition to all those calls for service, firefighters train daily to maintain their proficiency in all of the various skill sets necessary to perform their job and to meet continuing education requirements mandated by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, Department of State Health Services and Insurance Services Offices.

But providing their necessary services in a timely, competent manner is becoming increasingly difficult because of sheer density and costs associated with non-emergency calls. People call with minor pains and demand transportation. Each call costs the department time and money with little-to-no reimbursement.

It’s a challenging, high-stress job,often performed under extremely hazardous conditions. It doesn’t surprise us that Lovett has chosen to take a step back as he moves closer to retirement.

And we’re sure Lovett expects the men and women of Lufkin Fire to keep doing what they’ve been doing under his tenure — to continue providing exceptional professional service by protecting the lives and property of the residents of Lufkin and Angelina County.

Assistant Chief Duane Freeman will act as the interim fire chief while the search for a new fire chief is underway.