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Fire Chief Fennessy To Leave For Orange County Job

March 8, 2018 1:51 p.m.

Fire Chief Fennessy To Leave For Orange County Job

GUEST:

Susan Murphy, reporter, KPBS

Related Story: Fire Chief Fennessy To Leave For Orange County Job

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>>> I AM MAUREEN CAVANAUGH . IT IS THURSDAY, MARCH 8. OUR TOP STORY, AFTER THREE YEARS AND THE TOP JOB, SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF BRIAN FENNESSY HAS ANNOUNCED HE IS LEAVING. HE IS TAKING A JOB AS CHIEF OF THE ORANGE COUNTY HIGHER AUTHORITY. SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF BRIAN FENNESSY TALKED ABOUT HIS DEPARTURE WITH PORTERS TODAY. HE WAS ACCOMPANYING WITH A MAN WHO WILL BECOME THE INTERIM FIRE CHIEF. SUSAN MURPHY WAS AT THE EVENTS. SHE JOINS US NOW. WELCOME SUSAN. WHAT DID SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF BRIAN FENNESSY HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WHY HE IS LEAVING HIS POSITION AS SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF. -- ?
>> HE SAYS HIS DECISION TO LEAVE THE SAN DIEGO FIRE DEPARTMENT AFTER NEARLY 3 DECADES IS VERY BITTERSWEET. HE JOINED THE FIRE RESCUE DEPARTMENT IN 1990. HE ROSE THROUGH THE RANKS AND BECAME CHIEF IN 2015. HE SAYS HE WAS RECRUITED BY ORANGE COUNTY. THEY CALLED HIM SEVERAL TIMES. IT WAS AN OPPORTUNITY THAT HE COULD NOT PASS UP. WE HAVE A CLIP OF HIM EXPLAINING HIS DECISION.
>> IT IS A REAL HONOR TO HAVE SERVED FOR THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO FIRE RESCUE DEPARTMENT. AND ALL THE TIME THAT I HAVE HAD. I WILL START OFF BY SAYING, THE OPPORTUNITY IN ORANGE COUNTY WAS ONE I WENT LOOKING FOR. I WAS APPROACHED MULTIPLE TIMES. AFTER CONSIDERABLE REVIEW, THE ISSUES AND CHALLENGES TAKING PLACE IN ORANGE COUNTY APPEARED TO BE A GREAT PROFESSIONAL GROWTH OPPORTUNITY. AND A PERSONAL GROWTH OPPORTUNITY.
>> GO AHEAD SUSAN.
>> SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF COURSE, ORANGE COUNTY DID EXPERIENCE MAJOR FIRES. HERE IN SAN DIEGO, SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF BRIAN FENNESSY IS NOTED WITH IMPLEMENTING THE HELICOPTER PROGRAM HERE. IT IS SOMETHING HE HOPES TO BRING TO THE TABLE IN ORANGE COUNTY.
>> SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF BRIAN FENNESSY HAS BEEN STRUGGLING WITH SAN DIEGO LIFEGUARDS. THE CHIEF WANTED THE LIFEGUARDS TO BECOME MORE INTEGRATED WITH THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. IT WAS SOMETHING THE LIFEGUARDS RESISTED. THAT HE TALK ABOUT HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH LIFEGUARDS TODAY AND WHETHER IT INFLUENCED HIS DECISION ?
>> YES, THAT HAD NO IMPACT WHATSOEVER ON HIS DECISION. HE SAYS HE WANTED TO GIVE FIRE CREWS GREATER LEEWAY TO PROVIDE PUBLIC SAFETY SERVICES FOR THE CITY. CLIFF AND WATER RESCUES, THOSE ARE EMERGENCY CALLS THE LIFEGUARDS WOULD TYPICALLY RESPOND TO AND NOT NECESSARILY FIREFIGHTERS. HE SAYS THEY ARE A COERCIVE FORCE. SOME LIFEGUARDS WERE NOT HAPPY ABOUT HIS VISION. HE SAID THERE WERE ONLY A FEW THAT FELT THAT WAY WE HAVE A CLIP OF HIM EXPLAINING THAT.
>> FOR THE RECORD, I LOVE OUR LIFEGUARDS. IT IS UNFORTUNATE THAT WERE PLAYED OUT IN THE MEDIA VERY PUBLICLY IS NOT REALLY REALITY. IF YOU GO TO ANY OF OUR RESCUES ON CLIFFS, THEY HAPPEN DAILY. WHEN IT RAINS DOWN THE RIVER, YOU WILL SEE FIREFIGHTERS AND LIFEGUARDS WORKING RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER.
>> SUSAN, HOW ARE OTHERS REACTING TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT ?
>> I THINK IT WAS A SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENT. I DON'T THINK MANY PEOPLE WERE AWARE. THE NEWS BROKE LAST NIGHT. HE FELT HE NEEDED TO HOLD THE MEETING TO HAVE A CHANCE TO EXPLAIN HIS DECISION TO LEAVE. I KNOW THAT HE IS GREATLY ADMIRED AND WELL-LIKED IN THE EMERGENCY SERVICES OF SAN DIEGO. IT WAS DEFINITELY A SURPRISE. MANY, EXCEPT FOR MAYBE A FEW LIFEGUARDS, ARE SORRY TO SEE HIM LEAVE.
>> YOU MENTIONED THE HELICOPTERS THAT SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF BRIAN FENNESSY BROUGHT TO THE FIREFIGHTING CAPACITY . AND HE WANTS TO DO THAT IN ORANGE COUNTY NOW. WHAT ARE SOME OTHER MAJOR COMPLIMENTS WHILE HE WAS HERE IN SAN DIEGO DURING HIS 30 YEARS IN THE FIRE DEPARTMENT ?
>> HE SAYS HE IS VERY PROUD THAT HE HAS HELPED TO IMPROVE RESPONSE TIME, EMERGENCY RESPONSE TIMES. HE SAYS BUILDING ADDITIONAL FIRE CREWS THAT WERE NEEDED WAS A COMMITMENT. APPROVING THE -- IMPROVING THE HELICOPTER PROGRAM AND WATER DROPS. HE IS ALSO PROUD OF DIVERSIFYING RECRUITMENT. HE SAYS THE FOREST IS MORE ETHNICALLY DIVERSE, EVEN IN THE LAST THREE YEARS. INCLUDING MORE WOMEN ON THE FORCE. HE SAYS FIRE INSPECTIONS HAVE IMPROVED AS WELL. A MORE ADAPTIVE COMMUNITY TO FIRE -- FIGHT IRELAND -- WILD FIGHTERS. WERE AGENCIES AROUND THE COUNTIES TO RESPOND.
>> WHO WILL TAKE OVER FOR SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF BRIAN FENNESSY IN THE INTERIM ?
>> KEVIN FESTER, ASSISTANT CHIEF OF OPERATIONS. HE HAS BEEN WITH SAN DIEGO FIRE DEPARTMENT FOR NEARLY 33 YEARS. HE HAS RISEN THROUGH THE RANKS ALSO. HE HAS ALSO APPLYING FOR THE JOB. THE OPEN RECRUITMENT BEGINS NEXT WEEK FOR A PERMANENT REPLACEMENT.
>> WHEN DOES SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF BRIAN FENNESSY LEAVE ?
>> SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF BRIAN FENNESSY LEAVES ON APRIL 13 . HE WILL BE HERE FOR ONE MORE MONTH.
>> I HAVE BEEN SPEAKING WITH KPBS REPORTER SUSAN MURPHY.