Rich Cline has been planning his retirement from the Palm Coast Fire Department for years now.
“I started kind of shedding jobs about five years ago,” Cline said.
To celebrate his retirement, he and his wife spent the first few days at Disney World. But after that, Cline and his wife packed up their home in Flagler County and moved to the mountains of Tennessee to be closer to their daughter, granddaughter and other family.
Cline spent the last 25 years working in Flagler County. He started with the Flagler County Ambulance Service — back when the county had 25,000 people and only four ambulances, he said — then joined the PCFD in 1999.
He was one of the department’s first three paramedics and was promoted to lieutenant in 2008.
“Is it saving lives, or is it helping people?” Cline said. “The majority of the job, I mean — you don’t save lives every day as a firefighter. … It’s about helping, not the hero stuff.”
The majority of the job, I mean, you don’t save lives every day as a firefighter. … It’s about helping, not the hero-stuff.”
— Rich Cline, retired PCFD lieutenant
He has a lot of good memories from his time with the department, he said — and a lot of bad ones, too. But he focuses on the good memories and the good relationships.
“It’s like the old saying, ‘When the rats and roaches are running out, we’re running in,’” Cline said. “We see things that normal people don’t see and shouldn’t see. And the good memories kind of make those go away a little bit.”
One of his best memories is when the PCFD’s Halloween horror house — the Hall of Terror — drew more than 1,000 participants for the first time. Cline, alongside former Fire Chief Jerry Forte, created the now-annual Halloween event.
“We had like two kids come in to get candy from the first year,” Cline said. “And the last year that I participated in it, which was two years ago, we had a little under 5,000 come through in two nights.”
Forte has known Cline since before Cline joined the PCFD. He said the idea for the Hall of Terror came about when the two of them were sitting around the old fire station.
“Let’s face it,” Forte said, “a lot of ideas are created out of boredom.”
Forte and Cline built the Hall of Terror up to what it has become — a safe community event for scares and family fun.
Cline became the “Boo Master,” a title he later bestowed upon PCFD Lt. Dan Driscoll when Cline began shedding his job titles.
The Hall of Terror is where Cline became close friends with Driscoll. One of Driscoll’s favorite memories of Cline, Driscoll said, is of a training exercise in the middle of August where Driscoll soaked Cline with a hose.
“It always makes me laugh when I tell that story,” Driscoll said. “And he always laughs when I tell it now.”
Cline is just that type of man, Driscoll said — passionate and a team player. Cline and his wife will return to Flagler County in the spring to attend MegaCon with the Driscolls: The two couples have attended together for the last several years.
He’s not one of those guys that ever grew older or grew stale. He’s just always one of those guys who stood up for what was right.”
— Dan Driscoll, PCFD lieutenant
Driscoll said that if he had to describe Cline to a stranger, it would be as “a love-able oaf with Tigger energy.”
“He’s not one of those guys that ever grew older or grew stale,” Driscoll said. “He’s just always one of those guys who stood up for what was right.”
Forte said Cline is one of those guys who will always have your back.
“He just has a big heart, and he wore it on his sleeve,” Forte said. “He deserves the opportunity to be near his granddaughter and be part of her of her life.”
Now, after a lifetime of service, Cline said he has traded in his multitude of titles to be with his family, sit on his porch and watch his grass grow.
“I’ve always had a title; I’ve always had an identity around the job I was in,” Cline said. “Now, the only title I have — as one of the guys told me the other day — is: papa and gentleman farmer.”