By Ken A. Epstein
The orientation and family day for Oakland Fire Department recruits had a bitter sweet flavor – a new generation of firefighters was preparing to put on uniforms as an experienced leader was stepping down.
Eighteen enthusiastic trainees, along with their family members, came to the orientation last Saturday morning at the Fire Training Division near downtown Oakland to learn what do expect from the grueling 26-week training academy that will start Nov. 3
They were welcomed by Fire Chief Dan Farrell, a 28-year OFD veteran, who said he was retiring that day after he finished speaking to them.
“This is not about you; it’s about providing a stellar level of service to the citizens of Oakland,” Farrell said. Though he was retiring, he said, “After you finish your training, I’ll be there to congratulate you.”
The theme of service to community was repeated in presentations, where recruits learned they would be facing hard tests, both physical and academic. “There is no on-the-job training. When you leave the academy, you will take your place as a firefighter,” said Capt. Duane Mowrer, who operates the recruit academy.
“We are 911 – there is no one else call,” he said, explaining that the department handles all non-law enforcement calls. “If we can’t do, it pretty much doesn’t get done.”
One recruit, Oakland resident Jamillah Cox, came to the event with her mother and fiancé Moyse Howard. “We both very excited. I’m very proud of her,” Howard said.
In an interview, Farrell talked about his retirement and his accomplishments as chief.
“It’s time for me; I’ve have a few medical problems I need to take care of,” he said.
Farrell felt his major accomplishment was the high quality team of firefighters who work for Oakland. “You look at the folks who have come into the department in the last five years, and it’s a great group that is representative of the City of Oakland, including more residents of the City,” he said.
In addition, he said, the OFD is run efficiently, one of the few City departments that can boast that it was $10 million under budget last year. The department found various grants to help pay for new equipment, is installing new digital communications and is building a new fire house on 50th Avenue to replace one that is 80 years old.
While he looks forward to traveling, Farrell is especially interested in teaching fire science at Merritt College, he said. “I want to make sure the department is available as a fine career to people in this community.”
Mayor Ron Dellums named Chief Gerald Simon as Interim Fire Chief for the City of Oakland. Simon was Oakland’s fire chief from 1999 to 2004.
“Gerald Simon is a dedicated and proven leader in fire service,” Dellums said. “I am very pleased that he has agreed to help us through this transition as we undertake a national search for a permanent replacement. Chief Daniel Farrell served our city with great dignity and honor, and I thank him for his extraordinary service to Oakland.”
Simon has been in the fire service since 1976. He served for 12 years as a Fire Chief for the cities of Oakland, Santa Clara and Union City. He recently served as Interim Fire Chief for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.