- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006

D.C. Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty yesterday announced he will remove Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson and appoint as interim chief a longtime union official in the department who recently served on an emergency medical services study group.

Battalion Chief Brian K. Lee, a 21-year veteran assigned to the department’s Special Operations division since June 2005, will take over when Mr. Fenty becomes mayor Tuesday.

“The District of Columbia has a lot of great firefighters, a lot of great EMS workers and a lot of great management, but clearly it’s an agency where the bowels need to be strengthened,” said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat.

Mr. Fenty said Chief Lee will be considered for the permanent position, along with others on list of recommended candidates that Mr. Fenty expects to cull over the course of at least a month. D.C. law allows interim appointees to serve a maximum six months.

Chief Lee, 43, said he plans to move forward reforming the department, despite his interim status.

“To put it quite succinctly, I intend to act,” he said. “The mayor has given me the direction and the marching orders, and I intend to act.”

During his election campaign, Mr. Fenty pledged to remove Emergency Medical Services from the fire department’s control. However, he gave no indication yesterday about such plans, saying he is still evaluating the best structure for the agency.

“It’s not something that we said we’re definitely going to do it by Jan. 2,” Mr. Fenty said. “It’s something that we said that we would definitely commit to prioritizing. And as long as it’s the right decision for the residents of the District of Columbia, we will go forward with it.”

Chief Thompson was appointed interim chief in July 2002 and provided stability following two problem-filled years under Chief Ronnie Few.

Chief Thompson replaced aging fire apparatus and ambulances, reduced response times for critical medical calls and accelerated the integration of the uniformed fire service and the civilian EMS service.

However, his term was irreparably marred by a botched response to an emergency call for journalist David E. Rosenbaum, who was beaten and robbed Jan. 9 as he walked near his Northwest home. Mr. Rosenbaum died two days later.

After an inspector general’s report criticized the fire department’s handling of the incident, Mr. Fenty publicly called on Chief Thompson to resign and pledged to fire him if elected mayor.

Following the incident, council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, appointed Chief Lee to serve on a commission formed to make recommendations to improve EMS.

A certified emergency medical technician, Chief Lee joined the department in July 1985, before firefighters were required to hold such certifications. He was a union representative for 13 years, serving as vice president before resigning his position to accept an appointment to battalion chief in April 2005.

Lt. Ray Sneed, the outgoing president of the D.C. Firefighters Association, said Chief Lee was a good choice for the job.

“I think Brian brings quite a bit to the table,” he said. “I think he understands that your greatest asset is your people.”

Chief Lee lives in Laurel but was raised in the District. He graduated from the D.C. public school system and earned an undergraduate business degree from the University of the District of Columbia. He also received a scholarship to the Harvard University Trade Union Program, completing the certificate program in 1994. He is now enrolled in the Johns Hopkins University Fire Executive Leadership Program.

He has two sons, 16 and 7.

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