They call him "Uncle Ivard."
Not "sir" or "captain" — although after 33 years with the Mesa Fire Department, Ivard Brimley has earned such deference.
They call him "Uncle Ivard" because they say he is like everyone’s favorite uncle.
But now their uncle is going away.
Brimley, 62, has decided Sunday will be his last day with the department.
The captain, who also serves as a part-time public information officer, said he wants to spend more time with his wife of 38 years, Elizabeth, their six children and eight grandchildren.
The loss will be immeasurable, not only because Brimley has such a "fatherly persona," but also because of his experience and knowledge, fire Capts. Paul Dutra and John Roberts said.
"Uncle Ivard’s always been very compassionate and caring," Dutra said. "He’s always put the customer first and he’s led us by example."
Before Brimley became a department spokesman, Dutra said there were plenty of occasions when Brimley took his crew to a fire scene the day after to help residents however they could. Sometimes, they’d move furniture. Other times, they’d help clean up.
Bob Cline, a Mesa Fire Department engineer who has known Brimley for more than 20 years, called Brimley’s retirement a "huge loss" for the department.
"He’s a super nice guy who’s always been dedicated to the department, and he always had the best interest of the people who worked for him at heart," Cline said.
In years past, Cline said he and Brimley worked together at Station 1 downtown and often encountered the downtrodden. If Brimley saw someone who needed a meal, he was always the first to give a few dollars. Or, if they needed some other type of aid, Brimley went out of his way to provide them a referral.
"He’s always gone the extra mile," Cline said.
In addition to seeing the number of fire stations grow, Brimley said he has seen a great many advances in technology over the years. When he first started, firefighters didn’t have self-contained breathing apparatuses, portable radios or computers, let alone thermal imagers that detect body heat in dark and smoky buildings.
There’s only one thing Brimley won’t miss about his job — responding to heartbreaking calls involving children.
"I still remember going on one call. I guess it was a crib death and I was so sure we had a chance. It was probably one of the few times I went out on the side of the firetruck and just cried."
For the most part, however, Brimley has found his job uplifting.
Brimley said he always tried to instill in younger counterparts that life is to be enjoyed, even at work.
"I’ve always expressed that you may as well enjoy what you’re doing, that you should have fun at what you’re doing," Brimley said. "I have a saying that I always tell everyone — ‘Keep smiling, it makes everyone wonder what you’ve been up to.’ "