Gregory Dean is the former fire chief of Seattle. (Photo/seattle.gov)
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) told residents on March 2 that Gregory M. Dean, the recent fire chief of Seattle, is her choice to lead the District’s fire and emergency medical services (FEMS) department. Despite his interest in being permanent, interim fire chief Eugene Jones was let go.
“The safety and well-being of District residents is my top priority and FEMS is at the frontlines of this effort,” Bowser said. “Chief Dean is a proven, collaborative leader who led a department with an international reputation for its fire-based 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 worked in Seattle’s FEMS department for 44 years, said, “I look forward to working with Mayor Bowser and FEMS providers to deliver efficient and compassionate fire and emergency medical services to the residents of all eight wards,” Dean said. “We will build on the department’s strengths and bring a data-driven approach that will ensure that we are delivering top notch services 24/7.”
In Seattle, Dean led a department of 1,150 employees with a $175 million budget for 10 years. Before becoming chief, he served in lower capacities for well over three decades.
Dean has been credited with increasing the overall cardiac arrest survival rate from 26 percent in 2002 to 62 percent in 2014.
Dean takes over a department that has been the source of controversy since 2011, when Kenneth Ellerbe took over it. During Ellerbe’s tenure, which ended in June 2014, critics of FEMS charged that employee morale was low, management’s relations with the firefighters union were abysmal and the department’s equipment was either outdated or malfunctioning.
On Jan. 25, 2014, Medric Mills, a longtime District resident, died of a heart attack despite members of his family seeking help from FEMS employees at the Rhode Island Avenue Engine House 26. The fire house is across the street from Mills’ residence and his family members were told by FEMS employees that they should call 9-1-1 and didn’t seek to help Mills.
Mills’ death generated widespread criticism of Ellerbe’s leadership style. Ellerbe retired in June to work in the private sector.
Ellerbe praised Bower’s selection, “Gregory Dean has a long history of accomplishments and he believes in accountability,” Ellerbe told the AFRO. “He is the type of leader that D.C. Fire and EMS needs and should follow.”
James Short, a former deputy fire chief, said that he admires Dean’s career and thinks he will bring the department together.
“He is the type of chief that will go down to the station and sit down and talk with employees” Short, who worked for FEMS for 33 years, said.
D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) said that he “hasn’t heard anything negative about Dean.”
“I do know that Seattle’ fire department and D.C.’s fire department are similar,” Orange said.
The D.C. Council must approve Dean’s nomination and D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) chairs the Committee on the Judiciary, which will hold hearing on Dean in the near future.
“I have not had the chance to speak with him yet but I hear that he has had a long career and he was very well respected in Seattle,” McDuffie said. “I’m looking forward to learning more about him.”
Edward Mills III, the acting assistant FEMS chief, will run the department until Dean is confirmed.
Short said that Dean should be confirmed and allowed to do what needs to be done to get the department operating in a smooth manner.
“Our fire department is in a sad state with firefighters not wearing their uniforms while on duty and people dying in front of fire stations,” he said. “The people leading the department now are young and they have no common sense. Dean should be given a chance to prove himself