Oakland Local

Bay Area

Oakland's New Fire Chief Comes Home

Jennifer Inez Ward/Oakland Local

City of Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed

After serving 26 years for the San Jose Fire Department, Oakland's new fire chief is ready for her homecoming.

Teresa Deloach Reed - who has lived in Oakland for 22 years - will now head up the Oakland Fire Department, becoming the first woman to be named chief in the 142-year history of the Oakland Fire Department. She also is the nation’s first African-American female fire chief to lead a large metro fire department.

"This was the perfect fit for me," said Reed, who served as the assistant fire chief in San Jose. "I live in Oakland and my kids grew up here. You know, it was very difficult living in Oakland and not being associated with their fire department. I've always wanted to have this connection with the Oakland fire department because this is a such a great city."

Reed said she's looking forward to the challenge of working for the city, even as Oakland struggles financially. In San Jose, Reed oversaw two cost saving measures that averted major cuts to SJFD budget and prevented additional personnel layoffs.

"What Oakland is going through, what it's faced with, is very similar to the things we have already experienced in San Jose," Reed said. "In San Jose, we went through layoffs and budget reductions over the last three years ... Having that type of experience will be especially beneficial going forward."

Reed said that for the next several weeks she will be studying closely everything related to the fire department.

"I think what's going to be critical for me is getting a clear assessment of the department; taking a look at the operation; and just really looking at how the department runs so that I can determine where we need to go," she said.

She added that Oakland has a strong reputation in the Bay Area.

"A lot of fire departments in the Bay Area look to Oakland in regard to the strength of their emergency response operations (and) the experience of the individuals out in the field," Reed said.

In fact, Reed said she believes that the department's emergency response work is a critical component for any fire department.

"I am a big proponent of our folks being out there having the skill set to respond to emergency response calls," she said. "I see EMS as a core service right along with fire fighting and rescue. I would like to see our department grow stronger in the EMS department. It's life safety, and that's what we're about."

Reed said she knows being chief will not be easy in Oakland.

"As fire chief, you have to have a strong conviction, courage and a sturdy spine because you're going to go through some stuff," she said. "It's not easy and I know there are going to be some difficult roads. But, I'm praying there are more good roads than difficult roads."

Reed began her career in 1986 as the first African-American woman firefighter for the San Jose Fire Department, rising through the ranks to become assistant fire chief.

"When I started, I came in and immediately got involved with the black fire fighters association," she said. "Over the years, I've always felt that there was a support system there for me so if anything got just really unbearable, I would have this resource that I can go and say, 'Hey this is what was going on with me,'" she said. "And I continue to use that resource, to have that network, so I've never felt I was by myself. My success has been me standing on the shoulders of so many people that came before me."

Reed will officially become Oakland's fire chief on March 5. Once in place, she will manage a staff of more than 500 sworn positions and 80 non-sworn personnel.

Reed is married and has two grown children who graduated from Skyline High School.

Source: Oakland Local []

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