Mayor Villaraigosa nominates Peaks as next fire chief

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Brian Watt/KPCC

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Interim Fire Chief Millage Peaks

Four fires are burning in the Los Angeles area, and L.A. City Fire Chief Douglas Barry is set to begin his retirement Monday, August 31. So it’s a good time to find out who will succeed him. At a city hall news conference today, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said his choice is Battalion Chief Millage Peaks. KPCC's Brian Watt says Peaks is a 33-year veteran of the L.A. Fire Department.

Brian Watt: Millage Peaks joined the department as a firefighter in 1976 and rose quickly through its ranks. By 1992, he was leading Battalion 3 in South Los Angeles. These days, the department faces an historic budget deficit, so Mayor Villaraigosa said he chose Peaks for more than just his experience.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: In these uncertain times, we need a certain kind of leader, a leader who can act decisively in the face of turmoil.

Watt: Fifteen years ago, Peaks became an employee relations officer and played a big role in negotiating the department’s labor contracts with the city. That experience will serve him well in L.A.’s current stalemate with the firefighters’ union.

In accepting the assignment, Peaks acknowledged he’s walking into a firestorm, but he said the crisis presents an opportunity to change the department’s business model and make it more responsive to the city’s needs.

Acting Fire Chief Millage Peaks: This is all done for the next generation of firefighters. I believe this kind of change is possible if we invite more people to the table.

Watt: Peaks vowed to continue Douglas Barry’s zero-tolerance policy towards hazing, harassment, and discrimination. Barry is L.A.’s first African-American fire chief. Millage Peaks would be the second if the L.A. City Council confirms him. Until then, 56-year-old Peaks will serve as interim chief.

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