Dennis L. Rubin, DC's Fire Chief

Editor's note: This month's Chief Concerns column is a departure from our usual format, in that it takes the form of an interview with one nationally prominent fire chief conducted by another. Dennis L. Rubin, who has been chief of the District of...


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Editor's note: This month's Chief Concerns column is a departure from our usual format, in that it takes the form of an interview with one nationally prominent fire chief conducted by another. Dennis L. Rubin, who has been chief of the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department for just over a year, discusses his career experiences, his responsibilities as fire chief in the nation's capital and his ideas for the future. The interview was conducted by his fellow Firehouse® Contributing Editor Charles Werner, chief of the Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department.

Dennis L. Rubin's experience in the fire-rescue service spans more than 35 years. On April 16, 2007, Rubin was appointed chief of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department -- the same department he joined as a line firefighter at the age of 21. As chief, Rubin commands a staff of over 2,000 sworn and civilian employees and manages an annual operating budget in excess of $170 million. The department he leads is responsible for protecting more than a million people who visit, work and live in the nation's capital each day as well as safeguarding national landmarks from the U.S. Capitol to the White House. Prior to his appointment, Rubin was chief of the Atlanta, GA, Fire and Rescue Department. He also has served as chief of the Norfolk, VA, Fire Department and was fire chief and city manager in Dothan, AL. In 1994, Rubin was president of the State Fire Chiefs Association of Virginia and he was the host fire chief for the 1999 Southeastern Fire Chiefs Association Conference in Dothan. He serves on several committees with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), including a two-year term as the Health and Safety Committee chair. He also was the host fire chief for the "Wingspread IV" and "Wingspread V" conferences in 1996 and 2006.

Rubin holds a bachelor of science degree in fire administration from the University of Maryland and an associate in applied science degree in fire science management from Northern Virginia Community College. He is enrolled in the Fire and Emergency Management Administration program at the graduate school of Oklahoma State University. He is a 1993 graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer (EFO) program and a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), and he has obtained the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation from the IAFC. He has been an adjunct faculty member of the National Fire Academy since 1983 and authored the book Rube's Rules for Survival. Rubin is a long-standing Firehouse® contributing editor and has written more than 140 technical articles related to fire department operations, administration, training and safety.

WERNER: You have had a diverse fire service career. Please provide an overview of your journey.

RUBIN: What a wonderful journey I have had so far. I was appointed to the Fairfax County Fire Department in October of 1971. I completed recruit school and was assigned to Bailey's Crossroads -- Station 10 on Route 7, long since relocated. My next stop was my dream job and that was the District of Columbia Fire Department. I was soon assigned to Engine 10 in the Trinidad section of the city. Wow, what a great place to learn and be a part of a metropolitan fire department. This is the point in my career that I became "mobile" and after a few short stops, I headed west. I found myself as a captain in the Mesa (Arizona) Fire Department. I learned way too much about firefighter line-of-duty deaths in Mesa. For the next 10 years, I was with the Chesterfield Fire Department in central Virginia as a battalion fire chief. Eight years were spent as the chief of training and safety and two years as the southern battalion chief on the A Shift. Chesterfield prepared me to take on the mantel of the fire chief's position in southeast Alabama. In 1996, I raised my hand and was sworn in for the first time as the fire chief of a community. What a wonderful time and opportunity in my career and in my personal development to land my first chief's job. The five years that I spent in Dothan, Alabama, was some of the best years. Dothan is a community of about 65,000 folks and the fire-rescue department was a core service function. I would later be asked to return as the city manager and that was a wonderful learning experience as well for me.

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