GLENDALE -- More than 40 years ago, Joel Markss’ friends had a
conversation that had a powerful impact on firefighting.
“There was a group of guys I ran around with, and we were talking
about what we were going to do with our lives,” said Markss, a battalion
chief for the Glendale Fire Department. “One friend started talking about
being a firefighter, and the next thing you know, all six of us ended up
in a fire department someplace.”
Markss, a La Canada Flintridge resident, spent two years working for
the Beverly Hills Fire Department before joining the Glendale Fire
Department in 1960. In the 42 years since, he swears there’s never been a
day he didn’t want to come to work.
When he retires later this year, he’ll take with him vast knowledge of
firefighting and the Glendale department, which he says taught him
everything he knows.
Markss, 65, was promoted to engineer in 1973, captain in 1978 and
battalion chief in 1983. He took the reins of the paramedic program when
it kicked off on March 1, 2000.
The walls of his office are lined with plaques, awards he’s received
and photographs of fires he was in charge of bringing down.
He points to one picture of an apartment fire on Louise Street a few
“With the tools and equipment, training and knowledge we all had when
I came here, that building would have burned to the ground,” he said.
Instead, his team of firefighters was able to confine the fire to the
apartment in which it started.
“For me personally, the most significant thing that I can do is be in
command of an incident that could have been a disaster but you were able
to mitigate it,” he said. “Having an opportunity to help people is the
most rewarding thing that you can do.”
He’s been at the helm of so many department initiatives that he gets
bashful just thinking about naming them all.
In what is perhaps his most visible achievement, he served as project
manager for the building of three Glendale fire stations -- 21, 22 and 25
-- and a maintenance facility. During the 10-year project, he went the
extra mile to solicit input from the people who’d be using the stations,
including constructing a mock work station for dispatchers to try out.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is now, the dispatchers love
their dispatch center,” he said. “When we were done with each one of the
projects, the people that were working there find that it’s functional.”