Berkeley appoints first Asian American fire chief in continental United States

Last week, Gil Dong was officially named chief of the Berkeley Fire Department, becoming the first Asian American fire chief in the continental United States: Berkeley appoints first Asian-American fire chief in continental U.S.

Dong, a 23-year fire veteran who first joined as a firefighter-paramedic in 1990 and has worked in every division of the department, has been serving as interim fire chief since last December. His appointment became official at last week's Berkeley City Council meeting.

In his new job, Dong will oversee 134 staff members while taking charge of a $34 million budget. He says his priorities will be training, emergency preparedness and maintaining infrastructure and equipment. And yes, it's about damn time we've had an Asian American fire chief:

Though Dong said he felt honored to be the first Asian-American fire chief in the continental U.S. but torn that it took such a long time.

"I think it's reflective of the culture and the problem we have recruiting Asian-American firefighters," Dong said. "Asian parents want you to become doctors, lawyers, engineers. We need to break through some of those barriers and show that being a firefighter is just as honorable."

According to Dong, there needs to be more aggressive recruiting of minorities and Asian Americans into the fire service. Diversity outreach is also a priority on the strategic plan to demonstrate that fire service is a viable career for minorities as well.
Not bad for a guy who, as a first-grader, once pulled a fire alarm to impress his friends. More here: Berkeley’s new fire chief: Destined to be a firefighter.

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