Grass Valley promotes Robert Bundy as new fire captain
Growing up in San Jose, Robert Bundy says he had dreams of being the starting quarterback in the National Football League for the then-Los Angeles Rams, though life would eventually lead him down a different path as a firefighter.
On Aug. 2, Bundy was officially promoted to fire captain with the Grass Valley Fire Department, after serving 15 years as a fire engineer in the area.
Fire Chief Mark Buttron said Bundy was chosen for promotion because of his maturity, stability and leadership abilities on the job.
“He’s been with the agency for longer than I have,” said Buttron. “He possesses those qualities that we look for in a fire captain. Robert and I were on the engine together for several years, and he’s a great firefighter. It’s an exciting time for him, and it’s an exciting time for us.”
Bundy’s firefighting days began in Newcastle, a small unincorporated community 8 miles northeast of Rocklin.
At the age of 18, he dropped out of high school and moved to Newcastle to live with his father, where he began volunteering with the local fire department.
“I think I was just a little bit of a rebel,” he said. “Firefighting seemed like something exciting. I was a young guy, and there’s a physical aspect to it, as well as a mental side, so it was just attractive to me.”
Bundy recalls his first medical aid call in Newcastle being a 16 year old who had committed suicide.
“(He) put a shotgun in his mouth and blew his head off,” said Bundy. “They needed help inside so I went inside to help with that and it was just pretty powerful in the sense of not being experienced enough to deal with all the emotions that go along with that, especially at 18 years old … That kind of impacted me.”
As a volunteer, Bundy went back to school to get his high school diploma, and also received an associate’s degree in fire technology from Sierra College.
In 1997, he worked his way up to a full-time position, though continued to pay his dues working for $5 and hour.
“I was a resident firefighter, so I stayed in their mobile home on-site and worked their night shifts for $10 a night,” he said. “I eventually got work picking up day shifts, as many as were available.”
As a child, Bundy says his parents would go to church near Grass Valley making him familiar with the area, and as a Newcastle firefighter he would often frequent the nightlife in Nevada City.
Bundy started testing around at different departments and in 2000, at the age of 27, was hired on as a fire engineer with the Grass Valley Fire Department.
“There was a lot going on at the time,” Bundy said. “The department was just about to open up Station 2, they brought on three more people at the time, and they started joint staffing with (Nevada County) Consolidated (Fire District), which was a huge ordeal at the time.”
Bundy said throughout the years he has worked on some major wildland fires in the area, adding that “every day is a different day. But you just show up and do your job.”
During his tenure, Bundy says he has looked for opportunities for promotion and has done full-day test assessments at least four times in the last 10 years.
Bundy was assigned as acting-captain in October, and when Capt. Steve Smith was officially promoted to battalion chief in June, Buttron began the process to promote Bundy into the official fire captain position.
“The captain’s position is a competitive position for those who qualify, as they’re testing amongst their peers for that spot,” Buttron said. “He was successful in that process, so when we had an opening we placed him in that position.”
Bundy says he looks forward to his new position, which will be more of a supervisorial role with more responsibilities around Station 1.
“It’s something I’ve been working toward and doing a lot of the roles ever since I’ve been here, so it’s like the rank is just catching up with me,” he said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity. It’s been very rewarding and I’m happy.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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