Buckeye Fire Chief Bob Costello

Funeral details will be released soon for Buckeye Fire Chief Bob Costello, who unexpectedly died on April 8.

Bob Costello, chief of Buckeye’s Fire and Medical Rescue Department, is remembered for his genuine personality. 

“Chief Costello was a true visionary for Buckeye,” said Buckeye Mayor Eric Orsborn. 

“His quiet, comforting personality made him a friend to everyone he met. He was one of the most genuine people on earth and truly cared about others and the community.”

He died unexpectedly April 8 at age 62. He leaves behind his wife, Wanell, the Arizona State Fair executive director, and a brother. 

“We are all still in shock over his sudden passing but take comfort in knowing that his amazing contributions to Buckeye will have positive impacts on the city for years to come,” Orsborn said. 

Costello joined the city in 2004 and became fire chief in 2008. Throughout his career, he achieved recognition for various awards and innovative programs, including the implementation of the Community Paramedicine Program, in coordination with Banner Estrella Medical Center.

He also served on the state’s Emergency Medical Services Council from 2001 to 2004, and from 2016 to his last appointment by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2020. In August 2019, Costello won the Health Care Hero Award from the Phoenix Business Journal. 

That wasn’t his only award. They were aplenty. He was presented with Exemplary Service to Humanity by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, February 2019; the Dr. Paul Johnson Award presented by Abrazo West Campus in May 2016; and the Buckeye Heroism Award from the Buckeye Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2016.

In addition, Costello served as a member of the Patient Family Advisory Council at Banner Estrella Medical Center.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Costello was instrumental in providing updates to the city’s executive team and ensuring the city followed CDC guidelines as well as state and local ordinances and policies.


Early career

After starting his career as a firefighter with Rural Metro, Costello became a certified patrolman with the Peoria Police Department. He then joined the Arizona State Fire Marshal’s Office, where he held several positions in his 16 years there, most notably as its fire training director. For 30 years, he drove to rural locations across Arizona providing training to members of volunteer fire departments. Costello has been a certified trainer and recognized leader at six Arizona community colleges for more than 20 years.  

Appointed by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, Costello served on the state’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Council from 2001 to 2004, and again was appointed to the EMS Council by Ducey in 2016, with his last reappointment in July 2020 for another two-year term.  

Costello was instrumental in the construction of multiple fire stations for the Buckeye Fire Department. 

His contributions and support in the completion of fire stations 703, 704 and 705 deserve recognition, city officials said.   

As of January 2010, the Louis B. Hazelton Memorial Cemetery, better known as the Buckeye Cemetery, is under the management of the Buckeye Fire Department. Buckeye saw a significant drop in revenues due to a downfall in the economy. As a result, the city realized budget cuts and reductions in staffing. To minimize reductions in personnel, Costello stepped up to absorb cemetery operations and maintenance within the department.  

Initially, firefighters assumed the duties of irrigating, removing trash, excavating burial plots, and installing and maintaining headstones. Ultimately, the department hired two full-time equipment operators, who were dedicated to cemetery operations and maintenance functions.  

Costello spearheaded the “expansion project” north of the existing cemetery plots, adding more than 5,000 new full-size plots for Buckeye residents. The expansion project, which was completed in 2019, includes a community columbarium for the interment of cremains.  

Costello is credited for the proposal and implementation of the Adopt-a-Bench and Adopt-a-Tree programs, giving families another method of honoring and memorializing their loved ones interred at the Louis B. Hazelton Memorial Cemetery.

In early 2020, Costello started receiving daily COVID-19 updates and served as a “pipeline” to members of the Buckeye executive team providing information on CDC guidelines, the latest trends and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.  

Costello also provided guidance on special events or gatherings to ensure proper protocols were followed. Under his leadership, the Buckeye Fire Medical Rescue Department began administering COVID-19 testing and is providing COVID-19 vaccines.