New Orleans fire chief planning to retire

The city has begun to look for a new leader of the Fire Department to replace current Superintendent Charles Parent, who is preparing to retire.

Parent, who has served as superintendent for the last decade, has been on medical leave during recent weeks but remains the New Orleans Fire Department’s leader and will continue in that role until a replacement is found, City Hall spokesman Ryan Berni said.

“It has been an honor and privilege to work with some of the finest young men and women in the fire service,” Parent said in a prepared statement. “I leave with a heavy heart, but I know the city is in good hands.”

An ad for a new fire superintendent was posted Tuesday on the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ website. It has a May 24 application deadline. Berni said that any applications received will be released after that date.

The fire superintendent is appointed by the chief administrative officer upon approval of the mayor and reports to the deputy mayor for public safety.

Parent has led the NOFD since February 2003, when he was named the 10th superintendent.

He joined the department in 1982 and became a captain in 1990, a district chief in 1995 and was named acting deputy chief in 2002. The state named him fire chief of the year in 2009.

“I want to thank Chief Parent for his extraordinary service and continued dedication to the New Orleans Fire Department and to the people of this community,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a prepared statement. “He led the department through some tough times following Hurricane Katrina and continues to build it back stronger.”

Whether the city selects a new fire chief from internal candidates who apply for the job or from outside of the department, the next superintendent will face a series of challenges.

The NOFD’s $84.9 million budget for 2013 will support fewer firefighters than last year.

Though no layoffs are anticipated, city leaders are planning on attrition to thin the ranks and have not announced any new academy classes.

That is something the firefighters union has lambasted since it’s leaders say that will make it unsafe for remaining firefighters when they respond to calls.

Meanwhile, NOFD leaders have devised a strategy to realign manpower in an effort to keep all firehouses open while also keeping citizens and businesses safe.

“The opportunity to continue the progressive legacy of my predecessors, Chiefs (Warren) McDaniels and (William) McCrossen is an honor I could not have imagined when I began my career 30 years ago,” Parent said.

“The citizens of New Orleans can rest assured that I am leaving the New Orleans Fire Department with the best prepared, best educated and best trained fire service professionals in the country.”