Fire Marshal Joe Fretz and his K9 honored with retirement open house

Fire Marshal Joe Fretz (L) is recognized by Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Chief Brian Mayo (R) at Fretz’s retirement open house Friday. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
By David Slone

WARSAW — Fire Marshal Joe Fretz didn’t retire alone on Friday from the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory.

His K9, Raven, retired with him.

An open house for Joe and Raven took place Friday at the fire station on East Center Street. There were two retirement cakes — one for Joe and one for Raven.

Joe has been a firefighter for Warsaw for 30 years, 28-1/2 of those years as a full-time firefighter. He started in the fire marshal position in 2011.

“The fire marshal’s position — we go out to inspect businesses to make sure the businesses are safe for the employees and for the public to go into them. Checking all the schools and things like that. We work with the state, we do inspections. And I also do fire investigations,” Joe said in explaining what a fire marshal does.  

Fire Marshal Joe Fretz (C) poses for a group photo with the firefighters and staff of the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

With the position, he inherited a K9 for the fire investigations. Joe said they got Raven from Todd Jordan out of Anderson. Raven was donated to the department.

“He’s actually retiring with me. That was a big thing for me so he could retire with me,” Joe said. Raven, who is nine years old, has been with the department for about 4-1/2 years. “He’s at the end of his career, so to expect him to do it for another year or two, it’s probably going to be pretty tough. But I’m still planning on working him like we always have.”

Raven is a working labrador retriever and a food-reward dog, so the only time Raven would eat is out of Joe’s hand. “So we’ve created that bond through the years. It’s quite the relationship between him and I,” Joe said.

Raven was a stray out of Kentucky when Jordan picked him up and trained him to be an accelerant dog.

“So when I got him, he was very skittish around people and things, but once I put my food pouch on and a rubber glove in my hand, he knew it was time to go to work,” Joe said. “But he’s not much of a people person, so to speak. He loves our family.”

As for the best things about his job with the fire territory, Joe said it’s being out to meet the public, the community and different business owners.

“Just all around, just making sure everybody’s safe. Working with the contractors and businesses to make sure everything’s safe for the public to come into Warsaw. I’ve made a lot of friendships and relationships through my career and that definitely will be missed,” he stated.

He decided to retire due to his age —55 — and because of another job opportunity within the city of Warsaw. Joe will be working at the Warsaw Municipal Airport as a line technician.

“That’s always been a passion of mine, too. An opportunity came open and the timing was just right for me to go out there to start a new pension and I keep my benefits. So, with all that in general, it’s just the right move and the right time for me,” he said.

When he’s not working at the airport, Joe and his wife, Amanda, plan to spend time with their grandchild. They had their first grandchild, Jasper, about seven months ago and they’re looking forward to spending more time with him and his parents, Meghan (Joe and Amanda’s daughter) and Logan DeMaa, in Wisconsin.

At the start of the retirement open house, Fire Chief Brian Mayo offered a few words about Joe.

“Today is retirement day, a day I hope we all look forward to, and Joe has definitely earned it. His retirement, unlike the other ones we had last summer, came up really quick, so not much time to prepare,” Mayo said. “When I came in last year, Joe and I spoke and he told me he had about two, three years left. As long as Raven stayed healthy, he was going to stay, no problem.”

What he said he didn’t know was that Joe had a real love for airplanes. An opportunity at the airport came up and “here we are,” Mayo said. “I’m glad he’s going to go do something he really enjoys, and (Airport Manager) Nick (King) is getting a phenomenal employee.”
Mayo said Joe has dedicated 30 years of his life to the service of the community.

“As he steps into retirement, we celebrate not only his years of commitment, but also the profound impact he’s had on our organization and the countless lives he’s touched through those years. As his retirement marks a new chapter in his life, one where we can reflect on his accomplishments and look forward to the next phase, we all know you’re going to be working local and only a phone call away, which is really good for us. But it’s still on your terms, so I’m happy for you,” Mayo said to Joe.

\e said the fire department looks forward to seeing Joe whenever he has the opportunity to stop by.

On behalf of the whole department, city of Warsaw and Wayne Township, Mayo extended his deepest gratitude to Joe and to his family for their selflessness, dedication and service.
“Thank you to the Fretz family for letting us have him for 30 years. Congratulations, Joe,” Mayo stated.

Fire Marshal Joe Fretz and his K9 Raven retired from the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Friday. Shown is the retirement cake for Raven, who was unavailable for a photo. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Joe’s retirement axe is on order so he was presented with a temporary axe.

He thanked everyone who attended the retirement open house.

“I appreciate working with everybody. It’s been fun. A good time for me and my family. I really enjoyed it. I will definitely miss it, but, again, still staying within the city – out at the airport. Again, that’s something I’ve always had a love for, a passion for, but, again, I’m sure I’ll see all of you around. I’m not leaving, leaving, still sticking around. Thank you so much. I appreciate it,” he said.

Amanda said she and Joe will have been married 29 years in May. He became a full-time firefighter a few months after they were married.

“He had actually had that as a goal. He had loved the fire service, he’s loved aviation and the fire service ever since I’ve known him. So, this was just his passion. His dad was a firefighter and he was a volunteer for the city of Warsaw for 24 years before that. So, they grew up with it here. He was just embedded in it and he just really loved it,” she said.

Retiring from the fire department and going to the airport will be a change for him, Amanda said. “He’s going to love it. He’s been lucky enough to do something he loves all of his life, and he gets to continue with a different path now and I’m just really happy for him.”

She doesn’t expect to see him slowing down since he’ll be working at the airport, they have a grandchild and Joe is a volunteer at the Leesburg fire department. “He’s not slowing down by any means. I’m fine with that. I’m absolutely fine with that,” Amanda said.

Fire Marshal Joe Fretz holds his temporary retirement axe during his retirement open house Friday. His official retirement axe is on order. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Brayton Fretz, Joe’s son, said being a firefighter’s son, “It was easy to have someone to look up to. He’s been the perfect role model, I can say. What he does is very brave and courageous.”

Firefighter Brandon Schmitt has known Joe since 1997 when Schmitt became a volunteer firefighter.
“I was a volunteer, he was a career guy. And then I got on career in 2001, and then ended up on shift with him for several years,” Schmitt said. “We had a ton of fun working together. The station life with Joe was always a lot of fun. Just the everyday stuff that nobody really thinks about around the station, the training, cleanup and all of those kind of things. I’ve always liked working with Joe. He’s one of those guys that just made the shift go by fast. Just a great sense of humor.”

Schmitt said Joe will definitely be missed and his leaving will leave a void for a while. “You don’t replace a guy like Joe,” he stated.

Assistant Fire Chief Aaron Bolinger has known Joe for 24 years. They were on shift together when Bolinger started with the department.

Bolinger said Joe is a “wonderful, wonderful person. Always in a good mood. Always fun to be around.” He said some of his best years were working downtown Warsaw at station 1 with him. “Being in the inspector role he’s been in, he’s done wonderful things for our department, for the community in keeping it safe.”