County Executive Isiah Leggett today concluded a nationwide search for a new fire chief by naming Acting Chief Richard R. Bowers, Jr. as Chief of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS). Bowers is a 32-year veteran of the department, and he has filled every rank and leadership role in MCFRS, including the role of Acting Chief since October 31, 2008, when the County's first and only Fire Chief Thomas W. Carr, Jr. retired.
"Although we conducted an extensive nationwide search for fire chief, it is gratifying to know that our own interim chief beat all other competitors for the job," said Leggett. "Our residents should take comfort in knowing that Montgomery County's first class Fire and Rescue Service can only get better under the tutelage of such an experienced and highly-regarded leader in the fire and rescue field."
Bowers has long been committed to firefighter safety, wellness and training. Under his leadership, the County's Fire and Rescue Service has managed to facilitate the purchase of 39 new state-of-the art fire engines designed with firefighter safety in mind. The engines are destined for each of the County's fire stations within the next few months, along with three new heavy rescue squads, nine aerial tower and ladder trucks and several new EMS units and support vehicles. This is one of the largest and most ambitious equipment purchases in the nation, and it includes significant training for all vehicle operators.
"I am humbled by the opportunity to carry out the County Executive's pursuit of a common good by helping to create safe streets and secure neighborhoods for our residents in healthy and sustainable communities," said Bowers. "It is extremely gratifying to work in one of the largest, internationally accredited, combination (career/volunteer) fire and rescue agencies in the United States. Montgomery County has some of the most dedicated and skilled firefighters and emergency medical personnel in the world, and I am proud of their injury and fire prevention work and their responses to more than 100,000 emergency incidents a year."
Bowers finished first in his 1977 recruit class, and was named "Firefighter of the Year" in 1985. He is well respected by peers and possesses strong organizational, communication and customer service skills. His first initiative as Interim Fire Chief was to direct all firefighters to engage in communities as part of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) "Safety in Our Neighborhoods" campaign. To date, 25,000 homes have been visited and about 650 smoke alarms and nearly 800 batteries have been installed or replaced.
Some of Bowers' other accomplishments include development and expansion of overall MCFRS training and education. Bowers:
- Was instrumental in opening the MCFRS Command Development Center, a unique training facility and one of only a few in the United States;
- Oversaw and coordinated many firefighter fitness & wellness initiatives, including supporting the Fire /Rescue Occupational Medical Services;
- Is a proponent of driver training and programs to reduce frequency of collisions;
- Formalized and expanded MCFRS safety programs while also serving as the regional coordinator for the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation; and
- Is a strong advocate of community outreach, fire safety education and injury prevention.
The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service operates with a budget of $190 million and is comprised of more than 2,000 career and volunteer personnel. There are more than 40 fire and rescue facilities, including a 56-acre training academy, a state-of-the-art communications facility, and 34 community fire and rescue stations strategically located across the County's 495 miles which are adjacent to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Bowers' appointment must be confirmed by the County Council.