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Laguna Firefighter of the Year award goes to tech whiz

Matt Rolfe was Laguna Beach’s Reserve Firefighter of the Year in 2012, the year before he was hired to the department full time.
(Courtesy of Laguna Beach Fire Department)

When he’s not tending to people in need, Laguna Beach’s Firefighter of the Year is tinkering with the Fire Department’s iPads.

Matt Rolfe, 34, is a firefighter paramedic for the 42-person team in Laguna Beach, but he’s also the department’s go-to guy for all things tech. He manages the department’s patient care reporting system so that each step of an encounter between a fire official and a patient is carefully documented.

“Because our fire and EMS world is so based upon our electronics and our IT, [if] there is an issue, we can always call him and he’s always willing to help,” said Pat Cary, a fire engineer and department spokesperson.

Rolfe began working for the department full time in 2013 but served in Laguna Beach’s firefighter reserve for two years before that, winning the Reserve Firefighter of the Year award in 2012.


“We like to kind of stay humble and under the radar, so this kind of recognition kind of puts you out there, but it’s all good,” Rolfe said.

The Firefighter of the Year award honors a person who “must not only demonstrate high quality and consistent job performance but … an elevated personal level of commitment and dedication,” according to the department. Firefighters nominate their peers for the award, and the chief officers choose the winner.

“Matt is a character, and his positive attitude is infectious,” Fire Chief Mike Garcia said in a statement.

Rolfe said he never received formal computer training but “just always had a thing for computers.”


In a small fire department where each person holds a specialized responsibility, he chose technology. When the patient care reporting forms went from paper to digital a few years ago, Rolfe tailored the software to meet the department’s needs. He troubleshoots any problems with the system, even when he is off duty.

He also represents the Fire Department at community events with his bagpipe playing.

And he’s the father of a 5-year-old, 3-year-old and 3-month-old.

“People that show enthusiasm, that take on more roles and responsibilities than just our day-to-day operations, who come to work and do a great job, who do it with a smile on their face and who are always fun to be around and just have a great attitude — that’s Matt Rolfe bundled up right there,” Cary said.

Twitter: @faithepinho