KPFD Capt. Robert Bosch Looks Back on His 40-Year Career

The career firefighter, who served under seven fire chiefs since 1984, rolled out on his last call May 27.


It's the end of an era at Key Peninsula Fire District 16.

The last of the Bosch legacy, Captain and Firefighter/Paramedic Robert Bosch, 57, hung up his bunker gear for the last time after A-shift ended on May 27.

“Fifty-seven is pretty young to retire, but it doesn’t feel young when you’re climbing in and out of a fire engine,” Bosch said. He spent 50 of those years living or working on the Key Peninsula, having grown up in Vaughn.

A self-described “fire and trauma buff,” Bosch joined the department as a 17-year-old volunteer in September 1984 and started living in the Key Center station as a volunteer resident in 1985. His older brother, Paul, had joined as a volunteer in 1982 and was already living there. Back then, volunteers could live at the station for free and work odd jobs when not on duty. It was a way to get real-life experience while saving money for EMT and other certifications that would give him a leg up when he applied for a full-time job. He graduated from the Washington State Fire Academy in 1988.

Bosch recalled arriving on a medical call and watching a friend die because, as an EMT, he was not legally permitted to do what a paramedic could. Promising “to never be outmanned on a call ever again,” Bosch put himself through medic school in 1990 and is now retiring as the longest-tenured paramedic in department history. He was hired as a full-time firefighter/paramedic with KPFD in 1991 and, because he had so much volunteer experience, he was voted union treasurer for Local 3152 a month later. Two years after that, the then 26-year-old was elected union president and helped lead negotiations for 10 labor contracts until leaving that role in February 2011.

He rose through the ranks and made lieutenant in 2004 and then captain (now called battalion chief) two years later. It was during that time that some on the Key Peninsula negatively referred to the fire district as “Boschville,” citing issues with family ties, he said.

Not only was Paul a firefighter, hired full-time in 1987, but their father, Jim, was an elected fire district commissioner from 1997 to 2009 and technically their superior. Bosch’s wife, Christina, served in a key administrative and financial role from 2000 until she left for a similar job with the Vashon Island Fire Department in 2022.

But Bosch said it looked like nepotism more than it felt like it. The dynamic with his dad became less father-son and more labor versus management. Because Christina was the controller of the district finances, she was “the sworn enemy of the union.”

“Things got challenging and it caused some strife within our family,” Bosch said.

In September 2010, then Battalion Chief Bosch was fired after an investigation revealed he provided alcohol to a 20-year-old volunteer firefighter at an after-hours event during an off-site conference in Wenatchee earlier that summer. Though stripped of his titles and demoted, Bosch was reinstated as a line firefighter one year later after arbitration.

During that 12-month hiatus, Bosch explored work with other districts and learned some of his experience wasn’t transferable. That was humbling feedback for a veteran well-respected in the industry for leading trauma classes, and teaching strategy and tactics to rural fire departments. So he took advantage of the time to earn an associate degree in emergency medicine and human services and went on to get a bachelor’s in emergency management and a master’s in organizational leadership.

“My first day back on shift and the crew was inside watching the Seahawks game,” Bosch remembered. “I sat out in the garage polishing tires just like a new firefighter, trying to earn the respect of my crew.” Bosch worked his way back up the chain. In 2017 he was promoted to lieutenant for a second time. He once again made captain in 2020 (a rank now below battalion chief) and served a short time as interim division chief in 2021.

“I hope that at least describes my character,” he said. “I could’ve laid down and hid, but I refused to do that and I’m proud that the same people who voted me off the island promoted me twice more.”

Bosch credited two calls over his career that made an impact on him and the district. One was rescuing a man in a submerged car that helped start the district’s water rescue program. The other played out more like a movie plot.

In 1996, the union was butting heads with then-Fire Chief Gary Franz. At one point there were 27 active grievances against the district, according to Bosch.

He remembered one rainy day working on a six-hour call to free a man pinned under a turned-over septic truck. Beside him the whole time was Franz. “The same guy who I have been battling with and we were right there working together,” Bosch said. “We were so focused as a team, and I could only imagine what the union and district could accomplish working together and not against each other.” He said that was the starting point for building a bridge organizationally between labor and management.

“It was a tough call,” said Franz. “Those are the type of calls that eliminate all outside tension, and your focus outweighs any issues you have with each other.”

Franz was KP fire chief from 1994 to 2002. He retired as the deputy fire chief of Graham Fire & Rescue in 2013.

“I don’t have any ill feelings toward Robert,” he said. “He was a strong-willed and capable individual. I have a great deal of respect for someone who has hung in there for 40 years in the same organization, even when there were problems.”

Bosch said he will continue to serve the KPFD community through at least September. He wants to truly put in 40 years to earn his eighth Maltese Cross badge, given to firefighters for every five years of service. His retirement comes five years after Paul retired as a battalion chief/paramedic in 2019. Bosch isn’t ready to say he’s done with the fire business. He’d entertain a chief job if it was close by or explore running for a board of commissioner position with Gig Harbor Fire, where he lives now. Until then, he plans to spend time with his three kids and two grandkids, while also doing some camping and golfing.