LA mayor nominates 1st woman as city's fire department chief

Los Angeles Fire Chief

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 22-year Los Angles Fire Department veteran was nominated Tuesday to become the first woman to lead the department.

Deputy Chief Kristin Crowley would become the first female fire chief for the nation's second-largest city if the nomination by Mayor Eric Garcetti is confirmed by the City Council.

Council President Nury Martinez joined the mayor in announcing the selection at a news conference.

“This is a moment for so many little girls across our city ... for many of them who think you can't be what you can't see,” Martinez said. “And today the picture changes.”

Crowley, who currently holds the jobs of acting administrative operations chief deputy and fire marshal, said that keeping the department operationally ready would be her number one priority.

Her nomination came as the fire department deals with issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to claims that its female employees face bullying and harassment.

“We will focus on firefighter safety, physical health and overall emotional well-being,” Crowley said. “As the fire chief I vow to create and support and promote a culture that truly values diversity, inclusion and equity within the entire organization.”

Harassing behavior will not be tolerated, said Crowley, who was a firefighter, paramedic, engineer and battalion chief in the steps of her career leading up her joining the department's command staff.

Garcetti recounted how Crowley and her wife, who had just retired from the Fire Department, helped a family member leave Malibu Canyon during the disastrous 2018 Woolsey Fire and then battled flames for 16 hours, saving nine out of 10 homes on that street.

“If that isn't heroism in action I'm not sure what is,” the mayor said.

Crowley would replace Ralph Terrazas, who became the department's first Latino chief in 2014 and promoted Crowley several times.

Terrazas plans to retire March 26, ending a 38-year career that included the department responding to the coronavirus pandemic by running city sites that have administered millions of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations.

The department has about 3,400 uniformed personnel and 106 fire stations serving about 4 million people across 469 square miles (1,215 square kilometers).