As of July 29, Jeffrey R. Segal will settle in as the Baltimore City Fire Department’s acting Fire Chief.
This was no walk in the park for Segal, who says the path to the top, even though it is a temporary perch, was covered with hard work, dedication and guidance from some notable colleagues.
“I am honored and it has been very sobering because of the level of responsibility,” Segal told the AFRO of his new position. “ To be in charge of a major fire department in the United States is humbling. I am so grateful.”
As an African American, Baltimore native, Segal grew up in Woodlawn and attended Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County. He later went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degree in management from Johns Hopkins University. In 2012 Segal graduated from the National Fire Academy and the Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP).
Segal, 47, came to the department in 1987 at the age of twenty. He began his career as a firefighter and quickly moved through the ranks. In 1990 he became a pump operator. Then came promotions: Lieutenant in 1992, Captain in 2001, Battalion Chief in 2004, Battalion Commander in 2005, Division Chief in 2006, Deputy Chief in 2008 and in 2011 Assistant Chief of Operation, which is the position he held prior to being named to be the interim replacement for departing Chief James Clack.
Segal was the first in his family to serve in the fire department. His earliest exposure to firefighting was as a boy. He said, “Each time I heard a fire truck, my father would tell me to listen to the fire engine.” Segal said of his father. “The engine had the distinct sound of an old Detroit diesel.”
Detroit diesel engines are common workhorses inside the nation’s fire trucks. In addition to generating up to 500 horsepower, the Detroit diesel produces a distinctive exhaust note. “He would tell me, listen to the engine hum, they hum,” Segal recalls of his father.
While it’s unknown if Segal will become the permanent fire chief, he says while he’s in place he plans to make sure the city fire department does its part to make sure Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s public safety goals are met.
“My plan is to ensure there are fast response times, making sure fire prevention is highlighted through education, maintain a healthier Baltimore, continue door to door inspections and make sure the community is engaged and involved on what is occurring in their neighborhoods,” said Segal.
One of the trickiest tasks in front of him is maintaining the department’s commitment to diversity at a time when budget cuts forced an end to the diversity recruitment initiative in April.
Segal said under his reign he “expects to continue to strive for diversity in the department. There are training programs that will equip all members and he plans to look at all ends of diversity.”
He has a son, Brett, who is a firefighter on Engine 52 in Mondawmin and resides in Mt. Washington.