Former Santa Fe (NM) Fire Chief Was ‘Strong Leader’ and Mentor

Robert Nott

The Santa Fe New Mexican


Jun. 10—Like many little boys from a not-so-long-ago era, little Frank DiLuzio Jr. harbored dreams of doing something important in the world.

He wanted to be a fire chief.

The Los Alamos native had his wish come true when he served as Santa Fe’s fire chief from 1994 to 2000 — just a piece of 20-plus years as a firefighter with the city.

DiLuzio died June 2 of a rare form of cancer in a Denver hospice facility. He was 66.

“The fire department was his true love — except me,” said Janet DiLuzio, his wife of over 30 years.

Former colleagues who worked with DiLuzio during his stint with the department, which began in 1979, recalled a man of empathy and warmth who wanted to help everyone around him get better so they, in turn, could help the community.

And DiLuzio, considered by many to be the first paramedic to join the department, helped grow the paramedic force to over 30 today, said current Fire Chief Paul Babcock.

“He was a strong leader, a good mentor,” Babcock said. “And him being the first paramedic led to the department sponsoring firefighters to go to paramedic school.”

Former Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Ted Bolleter said DiLuzio inspired him to become a firefighter when he was still a teen.

“He was a leader who knew how to find the right people for the right job,” Bolleter said. “In the fire department there was a lot of branches you can go off into — fire prevention, training, operations — and he knew how to take people and put them in roles where they would flourish and just get better.

“He directed me into fire prevention. If it weren’t for him, I would not be fire marshal or assistant fire chief.”

DiLuzio was born Dec. 21, 1954, in Los Alamos. His father, Frank DiLuzio Sr., worked a variety of jobs for state and federal governmental agencies, including Los Alamos National Laboratory.

As a result, the DiLuzio family moved around quite a bit during young Frank’s life, and he did not return to the Santa Fe area until he had graduated from high school and began attending the former College of Santa Fe to study public administration.

Wanting to find a way to help his community, he later attended paramedic school, his wife said.

“He had a love of serving people,” Janet DiLuzio said.

He was 25 when he joined the city fire department. City Councilor Chris Rivera, who served alongside DiLuzio in the fire department, recalled a man who could be tough but fair.

“He was a silent but strong leader,” Rivera said. “He never really got riled up. I never saw him lose his temper. He just had that silent strong leadership ability to get people to do things without really getting too uptight about anything. He was very patient.

“He understood the compassion part of the job and the need to have good relationships with the hospital and other EMS agencies.”

DiLuzio also is credited with playing a role to get legislation passed that included firefighters in state presumptive disability laws, which tie a particular occupation with a disease or illness that could be a byproduct of that occupation.

In New Mexico, one of those diseases is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. DiLuzio was diagnosed with the form of cancer in January 2012, his wife said.

“Do you want to fight this?” Janet DiLuzio asked him when they got the news.

“Yeah, I want to fight this,” he said.

In the last days of his fight, in a hospice facility in Denver, he knew he had exhausted all options to win, she said.

For a moment, he cried, Janet DiLuzio said.

Then DiLuzio said to her, “This is not how I am going to spend however much time I have left. I’m gonna be happy and we’re gonna enjoy this. However much time I have left, we are going to enjoy every day.”

His sense of humor lasted up until the end, she said, as he plotted to find a way to help his wife sneak their dog, Blue, into the facility for one last visit.

“Just get Blue some scrubs and a mask and we can get him in,” he told his wife.

Janet DiLuzio said she will coordinate with fire department officials to plan a memorial for her husband, probably sometime in July. Besides his wife, he is survived by two children from a previous marriage — Heather DiLuzio of Albuquerque and Talia Burchfield of Knoxville, Tenn., as well as grandchildren.

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