VALENCIA – Fire Capt. Bill Apodaca was spending some quality time with friends Monday at Station 111 in Saugus, enjoying a barbecue lunch and holding court with a lot of uniformed visitors. It was a bittersweet break for the captain, who retires this morning from Los Angeles County Fire Department after 32 years of fires and rescues. “I have mixed feelings,” he said as a steady stream of firefighters came up to shake his hand or give him a hug. “This is what I will miss, the closeness of the Fire Department family.” The Simi Valley resident is leaving to spend time with his 8-year-old twin daughters. His wife, who also works for the department, is scheduled to retire in a few years, and they plan to take some long-delayed vacations and enjoy their children. “I’ve been in the (Santa Clarita) Valley 15 years now, ever since the early ’90s,” he said. “I love working with these guys and getting to know them and their families. But priorities change as you get older, and I want to be involved with my girls as they grow up.” Apodaca, 58, will be replaced by Capt. John Mazzocco, who served as his engineer for five years. “He’s a great guy and a hard worker,” Mazzocco said. “He’s very conscientious and taught me a lot – how to stay calm in an emergency and how to handle employees.” “He’s a fun guy to work with,” added paramedic Pat Armour. Capt. Dean Sword of Station 123 in Sand Canyon was quick to praise Apodaca’s work. “Bill is one of those guys who always knows what he’s doing in any situation; he’s smooth and easy-going,” he said. Frank Garcia, engineer for Station 111 and chief cook for the afternoon barbecue, said Apodaca’s dedication to the department and staff went beyond his immediate crew. “He worked on the benefit and welfare committee, making sure families that need medical equipment or financial aid got help,” he said. “He’s very level-headed and does a lot for everybody.” Apodaca’s parents got him involved in the department after a family friend suggested he might be good for the job. “My parents actually helped me fill out the application,” he said, stopping to greet other well-wishers. “I would tell anyone thinking of getting into the Fire Department to go for it. If you like helping people, this is a very satisfying job. You get to help people in their time of need, and you can’t beat it for the excitement.” Asked if a particular rescue or call stood out in his mind, Apodaca said there were too many to single one out. “There are so many,” he said. “It’s very emotional, especially when you’re helping children out, because you see your own families in them. “Working in this community has been a real treat,” he continued. “People here appreciate firefighters so much, it makes you want to help them. They’ve been so generous and thankful. They bring food and little gifts at the holidays and during fire season. It makes our guys happy to help with benefits or open houses.” Firefighter Ken Johnstone, stationed at 111, said Apodaca was especially good at watching out for his personnel. “He’s calm in an emergency, but has a good sense of humor,” he said. “This is a very different work environment than most places. He made it a lot of fun to work here. We’re sure going to miss him.” [email protected] (661)257-5252 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!