Former Seattle Fire Chief Picked to Lead D.C. Fire

Former Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean is Mayor Muriel Bowser's pick to be D.C.'s new fire chief, News4 confirmed.

Interim Chief Eugene Jones — who led the D.C. Fire and EMS Department since embattled former Chief Kenneth Ellerbe resigned — has been let go. He is on administrative leave pending separation from the department. A new interim chief will be in place during the transition over the next two months.

“We’re very thankful to Chief Jones, but Chief Jones will be moving on,” Bowser said.

People close to Jones say he was disappointed not to get the job but willing to stay on and support the transition.

Dean has a "sterling reputation," one official told News4's Tom Sherwood. In 2014, Seattle and King County, Washington, announced an all-time high cardiac arrest survival rate of 62 percent, up from 26 percent in 2002.

“The safety and well-being of district residents is my top priority and FEMS is at the front lines of this effort," Bowser said. "Chief Dean is a proven, collaborative leader who led a department with an international reputation for its fire-based EMS performance. I am certain that he will work with our emergency first responders and the community to move the department forward in exciting ways.”

Dean, who led Seattle's 1,150-employee department for 10 years and has homeland security expertise, said he'll build on D.C. Fire's strengths with a data-driven approach.

While he was chief in Seattle, the fire department was sued by a whistleblower who accused another firefighter of taking kickbacks.

“I demoted somebody, and at the same time they said that the demotion dealt with the fact that they had made a complaint to the ethics committee,” Dean said. “I was not aware of that. We have prevailed in that lawsuit.”

In another controversy, involving firefighters allowed to operate fire trucks after DUI convictions, Dean refused to answer questions publicly until ordered by the mayor

“It was a matter of my office decided that this was an issue that could be dealt with at their level, so that’s what happened,” Dean said. “Eventually I did end up talking to the media, but it wasn’t a matter of I wasn’t willing to talk.”

The fire department is still recovering from a series of problems that arose under Ellerbe's leadership, including paramedic shortages, ambulance breakdowns and slow response times.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services employees also were questioned for alleged inaction after a D.C. man collapsed and died across the street from a city firehouse.

Jones has been credited with improving morale and relations with the union as well as increasing training after Metro's deadly smoke incident in January. Jones, who came from the Prince George's County Fire Department, is said to be well-liked by rank-and-file union members.

“The firefighters respected him,” DC IAFF 36 President Ed Smith said. ”I would have liked to seen him stay on in some role. It’s a disappointment, but they all serve at the pleasure of the mayor.”

Dean starts May 1.

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