City fire chief picks top two deputies

38-year department veteran and Miami assistant chief

June 27, 2008|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

Baltimore Fire Chief James S. Clack announced yesterday that two veteran firefighters - one from inside the department and the other with nearly three decades of experience in Miami - will be his top deputies.

Donald W. Heinbuch, a 38-year city Fire Department veteran who was born and raised in East Baltimore, will be the deputy chief of operations.

Joseph T. Pryor, a 29-year veteran of the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department, will be his deputy chief for planning and administration.

Clack, whom Mayor Sheila Dixon hired away from Minneapolis in February, took over a department that had struggled with controversy after one of its recruits died in a botched training exercise last year.

First such decision

The naming of his two top deputies was the first significant personnel decision Clack has made in the department's top leadership ranks.

Clack said both men impressed a city hiring panel that had narrowed the field from 60 to fewer than a dozen applicants.

Capt. Stephan G. Fugate, president of the Baltimore Fire Officers union and a member of the panel that reviewed the applicants, applauded the promotion of Heinbuch and the hiring of Pryor.

He said he "can't question" the choice of Heinbuch because of his years of experience, and he described Pryor as a "very impressive individual" with "no union issues."

Heinbuch, who was the acting deputy chief of operations, will be responsible for the department's day-to-day efforts in fire suppression and emergency medical services.

"It's been my lifelong goal to be in charge of the operations component of the Fire Department," said Heinbuch, 57.

Newcomer to city

Pryor, who was assistant chief of operations in Miami, will be responsible for the department's communications operations, fire-prevention efforts, personnel and training divisions.

"I can see we can definitely make some improvements in training," said Pryor, 63, who added that he was familiar with the flawed training exercise that killed Racheal Wilson on Feb. 9, 2007.

Pryor said he retired from the Miami-Dade County Fire Department in 2003 but continued to educate himself in the fire service and jumped at the opportunity to work in Baltimore.

"He had experience in a larger department than Baltimore City and successfully doing the things we need him to do," Clack said.

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