Salute the Badge: Topeka Fire Marshal to retire after 26 years of service

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Topeka Fire Marshall Mike Martin has served the Topeka Community for more than 25 years. He’s been the face of the department. Doing news interviews and education presentations. This year, he’ll be hanging up his fire gear and picking up fishing gear as he is gets ready for retirement.

Martin has always had a passion for firefighting. It started at a young age in his home town of Hutchinson.

“I had a flat tire and I went into the fire station and they aired up my tire and fixed up my bike. I looked around at all the cool fire trucks and the guys. Something just sparked with me then,” Martin reminisced.

That spark has lasted 26 years. Starting as a volunteer with Mission Township Fire. Then testing with Topeka Fire, and chosen from 1500 applicants. He spent 10 years in the field, before shifting gears.

“I think I was on the top of the list to become a Lt. when the investigations position opened up and that was just something that always interested me,” he said.

Martin often wondered while fighting fires, how they started and the science around each blaze. That led to his job as the fire marshal. Investigating and informing.

“We’re able to put on the open houses every year. We did our first citizens academy this year and we haven’t had one in a lot of years. I love the ability to get out there and show Topeka what a fine, fine fire department they have,” he boasted.

As an investigator, Martin says he sees some horrific things, which have affected him.

“When Tony Cox died in 2007. That was probably the worst day on the fire department,” he paused and reflected.

Capt. Tony Cox responded to a fire at the Villa West Apartments. He suffered a heart attack, collapsing at the scene and pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later.

“That will always stick out in my mind because we never really had that grieving process because we had a job to do. We had to put it aside and do the job,” Martin explained.

He turns to God and his wife during those difficult times and reminds himself of the positives.

“I guess I cope with it by realizing that somebody’s gotta do it. It’s a job that I have and it’s a job that I love. So you gotta look for the things that you can do to affect people in a positive way and not dwell on those bad things that happen,” he advised.

Soon he’ll turn his focus to retirement, which may not be easy.

“Come January 1, I’ll be private citizen and I won’t be a fireman anymore. I think that’s gonna be something that’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment, but we don’t know what the future holds. So we’ll see where we go from there,” Martin smiled.

His advice for anyone who wants to be a firefighter, if you’re looking for a career and you want to be a public servant, the fire department is the way to go.