Maurice 'Marty' Martinez, assistant chief at Texas A&M Forest Service assigned to Texas Division of Emergency Management headquarters, and a leader in wildland fire response, dies of heart problems aged 44

COLLEGE STATION, Texas , April 21, 2014 (press release) – Marty Martinez funeral service scheduled

Maurice “Marty” Martinez, a champion of public safety in Texas and a leader in wildland fire and all-hazard response, died Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio after an extended battle with heart problems.

Martinez, 44, was an Assistant Chief for the Texas A&M Forest Service and assigned to the Texas Division of Emergency Management headquarters in Austin, Texas. Prior to being assigned to TDEM, Martinez was an Assistant Chief Regional Fire Coordinator overseeing four regional fire coordinators, a task force and was responsible for protecting 42 counties of South Texas.

He served the Texas fire service for 22 years as a volunteer and wildland firefighter. Having served TFS and the state for 16 of those years, Martinez was in on the ground floor of the current way that TFS fights wildfires - being hired as one of the agency’s original five regional fire coordinators.

Prior to his service with TFS, Martinez was a reserve deputy for the San Patricio County Sheriff’s Department and an emergency care attendant for Tri-County EMS, an assistant emergency management coordinator for Kleberg County for 10 years, involved with the State Firemen and Fire Marshal’s Association for 19 years and past president of the South Central District.

“Marty was one of first group of Regional Fire Coordinators to be hired in the state. He helped set the model for future RFCs. He was detail person when it came to developing Incident Action Plans for major disasters,” said Paul Hannemann, Chief of Fire Operations for Texas A&M Forest Service. “He will be sorely missed for his many capabilities.”

Part of Martinez’s success is attributed to Martinez himself. Longtime friend and Fire Chief of Edinburg Fire Department Shawn Snider can attest to one of his greatest talents - bringing people together.

“Trying to describe how long I have known Marty, is like answering ‘how long have you known your brother or your sister?’ I don’t know…forever,” Snider said.

“Marty was an extreme people person, he could always gather the confidence of those around them and pull people together. As fire chief in Edinburg, I would call him when we would have big fires down here – I didn’t need bull dozers, I didn’t need forest service firefighters, I didn’t need helicopters, I would call for him - I needed someone who could manage the incident and bring people together,” Snider said.

Always standing ready to respond, Martinez took part in most major incidents with TFS over the last 15 years. These incidents include wildfires spanning the entire state to include the Deaton Cole Fire in South Texas and the Bastrop County Complex Fire in Central Texas. He also responded to floods in Presidio County, tornadoes in Eagle Pass, the explosion in West and the recovery of Space Shuttle Columbia in East Texas.

But his service wasn’t constrained by borders. Martinez responded to wildfires in Mexico, Colorado, Montana and New Mexico and hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana.

More than a responder, Martinez was a leader and advocate of safety and education. He was an original instructor for the Capital Area Wildfire Training Academy in Bastrop. He sat on three Disaster District Councils for the Texas Department of Public Safety conducting Incident Command System training, helped alpha test courses for the National Wildland Coordinating Group, and worked with the United States Fire Administration to deliver All Hazard Incident Management Team courses nationally.

Martinez instructed National Wildfire Coordinating Group courses for the Lower Rio Grande Area Fire School, the Rio Grande Valley Firefighters and Fire Marshals’ Conference, the Beeville Fire School, the South Texas Coastal Bend Fire Training Academy and the Texas Municipal Fire School. He was also a member of the second cohort of the Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Enrichment Program.

Chief of Ingleside Fire Department R.J. Thomas was there when it all began, witnessing first-hand how driven Martinez was in his own career and in the continuous education of others as well as himself.

“Marty was the type of firefighter that was there for his fellow firefighters. He often spent extra time training outside of the regular schedule for those who needed or wanted it,” said Thomas. “He was serious about his own training as well. He continually concentrated on improving his own skills.”

Being a son of South Texas, Martinez carried his values everywhere that his life and career took him. Even in the most dire of situations, fellow responders often witnessed Martinez’s compassion for others. Widely recognized for this trait, Martinez was presented with the TFS Director’s Good Samaritan Award in 2011.

“I have met people all across this great state that have been impacted by Marty’s compassion,” Tom Boggus, Director of Texas A&M Forest Service said. “When all seemed hopeless because of a wildfire or a tornado, Marty was able to reach out and give people two things – help and hope.”

Of Martinez’s lasting impact on those who knew him, Boggus said “Marty was an encourager. After visiting with Marty, you were always in a better mood and you were always in a better place.”

The funeral Mass will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church in Ingleside, Texas with Interment to follow at Rose Hill Memorial Park.

Visitation will be held from 1:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. on Monday, April 21, 2014 at Seaside Funeral Home Chapel with a Rosary to be recited at 7:00 p.m.

Flowers will be accepted or donations may be made in Chief Marty Martinez’s name to Ingleside on the Bay Volunteer Fire Department, 417 Starlight Drive, Ingleside, Texas 78362 or National Fallen Fire Fighter Foundation, www.firehero.org\donate or Wildland Fire Fighter at www.wffoundation.org. 

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