It was a tragedy in 1979 that inspired Edward Cacares to become a firefighter.
“You know, I came here as a result of the death of a 12-year-old boy, Julio Lozado,” said Cacares, who is retiring as Hartford’s fire chief. “He died right down the street in a garage collapse. And when first responders got there, they weren’t able to speak the language.”
That was because the Hartford Fire Department had no Latino firefighters. After Julio died, the city changed its hiring practices.
“In 1980, the city had to hire 25 Spanish-speaking firefighters,” Cacares said. “I was one of those.”
Cacares rode his 10-speed bike to work on the first day thinking two things t he whole way.
“First thought was what I am doing here and the next thought was I’m gonna be chief of this department,” Cacares said.
Shortly after becoming chief in April 2010, three people died in separate fires in Hartford over a one-month span. The chief delivered the news of the third victim’s death to her mother.
“There was a loud scream from her,” Cacares said. “that sometimes I still hear today. That’s when I knew I was here for a reason. I need to stop these things from happening.”
Cacares says his three years in the chief’s chair have felt like 10. So it’s simply time to reconnect with family.
“It’s time now to take a break, enjoy retirement with my wife, my grandkids and help my family in whatever it is they need,” he said.
But one thing the chief truly enjoys about work is reconnecting with Julio Lozado, every day.
“You know, every day I come into work, I look at his photograph, which is here on my mantle,” Cacares said. “I look at Julio every day. When I come into work, it reminds me why I’m here. And, before I leave every day, I look at Julio and say thank you.”