Mayor Street on Friday named Deputy Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers acting fire commissioner, most likely permanently replacing Harold B. Hairston, who retires Saturday after nearly 40 years of service.
A 30-year veteran of the department, Ayers, 52, had long been viewed by Fire Department officials as one of the top candidates. He will oversee 2,400 uniformed firefighters, about 300 nonuniformed workers, and the city's 63 fire stations.
He is the city's second African American fire commissioner. Hairston, 64, who was named commissioner in 1992 by Mayor Ed Rendell, was the first.
"Lloyd Ayers has had one of the longest and most distinguished careers in our Fire Department," Mayor Street said Friday.
Philip R. Goldsmith, the city's managing director, said Ayers was one of three people interviewed from inside the department. In all likelihood, Ayers will be named permanent commissioner, Goldsmith said. "Commissioner Ayers is hopefully going to be in this position for quite a while," Goldsmith said.
Ayers said the new post was an excellent opportunity. "I'm really happy. I'm really proud of the fact they had the confidence to name me," he said.
Ayers has served as deputy commissioner of operations since July 2001, managing the fire academy, two firefighting force divisions, the aviation and marine units, and the safety office. Before that, he was deputy commissioner of technical services for about a year and oversaw the Fire Marshal's Office, hazardous materials administration, and the fire-prevention and fire-code units.
A native of Philadelphia, Ayers was president of Club Valiants Inc., a black firefighters' organization, in the early 1990s.
"Lloyd is an excellent firefighter," said Thomas O'Drain, president of the city firefighters' union, Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
One of Ayers' first tasks will be managing the controversy surrounding the administration's plan to close four engine and four ladder companies to save the city nearly $7 million.
A judge put that plan on hold earlier this month pending the outcome of grievance and arbitration complaints filed by the union.