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Los Angeles narrows its search for a fire chief [Updated]

August 10, 2011 |  8:00 pm

Photo: Patrick Butler, battalion chief in the office of the Los Angeles Fire Department chief. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times The search for a new fire chief has been narrowed to three candidates, all veterans of the Los Angeles Fire Department, according to a letter sent Wednesday to the Board of Fire Commissioners.

In the letter, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he plans to interview two candidates the board recommended, Chiefs Patrick Butler and Emilie Mack, as well as Interim Fire Chief Brian Cummings.

All three candidates are minorities, a significant fact given past accusations of racial bias in the department. In 2006, Fire Chief William Bamattre resigned after a firehouse prank -- involving an African American firefighter who was served spaghetti mixed with dog food -- escalated into a discrimination case.

The two chiefs who succeeded Bamattre, Douglas Barry and Millage Peaks, were both African American.

The new chief will take over a department that has undergone significant change in recent years, thanks to deep budget cuts and a controversial redeployment plan. The plan, which was instituted earlier this summer, calls for firetrucks or ambulances at about one-fourth of the city's 106 fire stations to be put out of service.

Peaks, who championed the plan despite opposition from the firefighters union, stepped down in July. Cummings, who is also African American and who served as chief of staff for Peaks, was named his temporary replacement.

Butler is an assistant chief assigned to the North Division, according to department spokesman Jamie Moore. He is part Latino and speaks fluent Spanish. Mack, who is half African American and half Korean, is a deputy chief in charge of administrative operations.

[Updated at 8:03 p.m.: The mayor must name his choice for fire chief by Tuesday.]


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-- Kate Linthicum 

Photo: Patrick Butler, battalion chief at the Los Angeles Fire Department. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times