Calif. deputy fire chief abruptly resigns amid police investigation

Orange County Fire Authority Deputy Chief of Operations Mark "Pokey" Sanchez was questioned about alleged abuse of authority and impersonating a police officer


Tony Saavedra
The Orange County Register

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — The deputy chief of operations for the Orange County Fire Authority abruptly retired Friday amid an investigation by law enforcement for alleged abuse of authority and impersonating a police officer.

Mark "Pokey" Sanchez left his post immediately, although his retirement is not effective until Feb. 1.

Orange County Fire Authority Deputy Chief of Operations Mark
Orange County Fire Authority Deputy Chief of Operations Mark "Pokey" Sanchez has resigned amid a police investigation about alleged abuse of authority and impersonating a police officer. (Photo/Orange County Fire Authority)

"He has decided to get out of Dodge and I don't know all the reasons why," said Don Wagner, a member of the Fire Authority Board of Directors and the county Board of Supervisors. "He is out and that is a good thing."

The Orange County Sheriff's Department confirms it had investigated a complaint from a woman who alleged she was pulled over in Laguna Niguel on Dec. 11, 2019, by someone impersonating an officer. Sheriff's investigators determined in their probe that the suspect worked for the Orange County Fire Authority, said sheriff's spokeswoman Carrie Braun.

Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's office, said prosecutors received information from an anonymous source about the complaint after the Sheriff's Department closed its investigation without referring it to the D.A.'s Office. Prosecutors reopened the investigation and determined that statements made by the former deputy chief to sheriff's deputies were untrue, Edds said. A second investigation is pending.

The Fire Authority website said Sanchez has been with the agency 35 years, most recently 11 years as a battalion chief.

The page described him as a "self-motivated" chief officer with a record of success in leadership. His biography says he was able to develop effectiveness, efficiency, and maturity in subordinates through his innovative leadership style. He was named the OCFA's Manager of the Year in 2012.

"Since I can remember, I wanted to be a firefighter," Sanchez wrote in an email to the fire agency Friday. "After so many years in the fire service, I can honestly say that it was everything I had dreamed it would be. I am more than fulfilled."

He continued: "Taking off the badge is bittersweet. I will always have a servant's heart and I cherish every day I had the honor to serve the public and you!"

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(c)2021 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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