Long Beach Fire Chief Xavier Espino announced his retirement on Thursday after 36 years in the department and four years in the top job. His last day will be Dec. 30.

“I have been blessed to serve as a firefighter for the Long Beach Fire Department for nearly 37 years; the past four years as the Fire Chief,” Espino said in a statement. “It has been my honor to protect the residents who call Long Beach home, the workforce who keep Long Beach running, and the visitors who enjoy our beautiful City.”

Espino’s time with the department included notable achievements, such as leading the department to become one of the first cities on the West Coast to launch a Mobile Stroke Program and launching the first dual Fire Academy in the Fire Department’s history.

Espino’s announcement, though, comes as the department faces pressure to cut its budget even as firefighters already report feeling “broken” by the demands of their job, according to a report the city released last month after the Post reported its findings.

In response to the report, Espino told the Post that covering vacant positions is currently a major strain on the department’s personnel, but he was hopeful that a new class of paramedics will ease the burden. Upcoming academies could provide an influx of new firefighters and help reduce the amount of overtime personnel are being forced to work, something Espino said he never had to endure when he joined the ranks nearly 37 years ago.

“Their busy today would probably have had me retiring a long time ago,” he told the Post last month.

Still, Espino said at the time, “The situation as it stands today is not good, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Last month, the city also reached an agreement with the Long Beach Firefighters Association that includes pay increases to help attract and retain recruits.

City officials on Thursday applauded Espino and his leadership.

“Chief Espino spent his entire career to serving our community,” City Manager Tom Modica said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful for his leadership, professionalism and ability to motivate personnel even during the most challenging of circumstances. I wish him all the best during his well-deserved retirement and quality time with his family.”

Mayor Robert Garcia echoed that sentiment.

“Chief Espino embodies what it means to be a leader in public service,” Garcia said in a statement. “He has led our Fire Department with honor, integrity and a deep commitment to the safety of our residents. We wish him well as he journeys into retirement.”

A statement from the city said information on the selection process for the next fire chief “will be announced in the near future.”

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