Bret Ruff: Belen fire chief, Air Force veteran, husband, father, avid outdoorsman and Toby Mac fan
(Bret Ruff, the Belen Fire Chief and Air Force veteran, lives in Los Lunas. His wife is Deanna, and their children include Mackenzie, Bret and Alessandra. Chief Ruff was voted Best Firefighter in 2019 in the News-Bulletin’s Best of Valencia County contest.)
Q What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
A “I use my time alone in the car for a few things. First, I use it to talk to God; to express my gratitude for all that He has helped me become, what He has given to me and my family, and for always allowing me to go home — whether it be from the Middle East or a big fire.
“I also use it to go over what is next on my to-do list. If I’m heading to work, I’m thinking about what I have to do that day and how I can help my guys achieve their goals.
“If I’m heading home, I’m thinking about what I need to do when I get there — that never-ending honey-do list.”
Q What was the last gift you gave someone?
A “I (along with my wife, of course) gave my daughter a microscope for Christmas. She is very into STEAM, and she loves exploring the tiny world she can see with it. When I cleaned the fish tank recently, she grabbed some of the algae and a bit of the dirty tank water and made slides to look at.
“When she was helping in the kitchen and cut her finger, she wanted to see what blood cells looked like. I love that she is so curious and loves science-y things.”
Q What were you like in high school?
A “In high school, I guess I was pretty quiet. I played sports — mostly outside of school, but I didn’t really hang out with the jocks, and I wasn’t really a loner either.
“I had a handful of very close friends over the years and preferred to spend my time with that small group. I also worked a lot with my stepdad, Bob, at his printing business and later worked construction my junior and senior years.”
Q What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
A “This question made me think I need to live a little more because I can’t think of a darn thing!”
Q What did you want to be when you grew up?
A “When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to be a firefighter/paramedic. However, upon graduation, I chose to go into the United States Air Force instead and was working with explosives and weapons. Eventually, though, I ended up returning to what I believe I was meant to do.”
Q Who inspires you?
A “There are a couple of people. One of my former fire chiefs, Robert ‘Fireman Bob’ Walp, inspired me to push forward as a firefighter and eventually a fire officer. Chief Walp has a huge heart; he and his wife actually adopted eight kids over the years and he did some amazingly generous things, both professionally and personally.
“Chief Alan Brunacini has also been a source of inspiration. He really was an amazing leader and I can only hope to apply in my department what I learned from him when I worked in Phoenix and through reading his books.”
Q What is your birth order in your family, and do you think it influences who you are?
A “I am the only boy and the second oldest of four on my dad’s side of the family and an only child on my mom’s side. On my dad’s side, we were a blended family. I most definitely believe that influenced who I have become.”
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Q What do you do in your free time?
A “I don’t have a lot of free time, but when I do, I spend it with my wife and daughter. Sometimes we’re working and sometimes we’re playing, but it doesn’t matter as long as we’re together.”
Q What’s the most interesting thing about you?
A “Interesting? I’m pretty much just an ordinary guy trying to help others the best way I know how. I guess the fact that I live and breathe firefighting is the most interesting thing about me. I was once told ‘it takes a special breed of person to risk your life to save the life of a stranger,’ and “it takes a special person to run into a burning building when everyone, even the rats and cockroaches, are running out!’”
Q If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
A “If I were an animal, I would definitely be a wolf. The wolf is protective of their pack, young and old. There is the alpha that leads and the strong members of the pack that bring up the rear as protection for the older or weaker members in the middle of the pack. I think that relates well to the fire department; we work as a team to make the department great.”
Q You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
A “If I were to win $10 million, I would give a portion to the church, pad our retirement accounts a bit more, put part of it away for my daughter’s education, and I’d love to donate to some animal rescues and help those who are less fortune than I am. I’m pretty sure my wife would insist on a vacation or two as well and my daughter would expect a trip to Disney World!”
Q Who is your best friend and why?
A “My wife is my best friend. She has known me since we were in fifth grade at John Baker Elementary in Albuquerque, and she has stood by my side through the good times and the bad. It takes a very special woman to be a military spouse as well as being married to a firefighter and she has had to put up with both worlds.”
Q What’s your favorite song to sing when you’re alone?
A “My favorite song to sing is, ‘Speak Life’ by Toby Mac.”
Q Where is your happy place, and why?
A “My happy place is definitely in the mountains. I feel at home there and more connected to God, nature and wildlife.”
Q Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today?
A “The life-changing experience that brought me to where I am today was when I took the leap of faith to leave my career in the Air Force to become an EMT. I have never once regretted it.”
Q What teacher had the greatest impact on you?
A “I attended quite a few different schools during my life as my parents lived in different states and my mother moved fairly often up until we landed in Albuquerque. I bounced back and forth between my parents’ homes — my dad’s in Reno and my mom’s wherever we were at the time. I honestly don’t think I can pinpoint any one teacher because there were many.”
Q If you could live in any other time, when might that be and why?
A “I’m not sure what other time I would want to live in. Every time period has had their pros and cons. Our current time has seen many advances in the medical field that better the quality and extent our lives and technology to advance our knowledge, unlock the mysteries of the past and push us further into the future. This is the perfect time for me.”
Q If you could have dinner with one famous person from history, who would it be?
A “If I could have dinner with a famous person from history, I would choose King Solomon, King of Israel. I’m not sure if he’d be considered famous per se — at least not as we think of being famous nowadays, but he was still such an important part of Biblical history for me.”
Q What are you most proud of?
A “A few things: I’m proud of my wife for starting and running her own business, my youngest daughter and the fact that she’s a high ability learner as well as her tech skills, my son who is killing it in the Air Force, and my older daughter for her accomplishments as a medical assistant. Finally, I am very proud of each and every one of the firefighters I get to work with every day.”
Q How would you like to be remembered?
A “I would like to be remembered as someone who helped others no matter the risk or cost to myself — helping my wife and children become the best version of themselves, helping the firefighters I work with achieve the goals they set for themselves, and as someone who helped leave our community a better place.”