March 21, 2013
By Kenneth Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
Since 1888 African Americans have been an integral part of the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD).
From Sam Haskins the first paid call fireman who started his career in 1888 to the current Fire Chief Brian L. Cummings, Black firefighters have a storied history within the LAFD.
The LAFD has a proud tradition of service and innovation, but all their employees did not always embrace fundamental human rights such as fairness and equality.
Throughout its history, Black firefighters were subjected to treatment that was horrible and bordered on the intolerable. These courageous men and women who wore the uniforms of firefighters were the only race of people who were subjected to segregation.
The Jim Crow practices that were designed for division, instead brought about unity for Black firefighters who banded together to provide much needed comfort and support to address these unfavorable conditions, while at the same time carrying out their responsibility to the public.
From this time of despair and neglect the Stentorians (Association of African Americans in the Fire Service) were organized to address social injustice within the fire service to better conditions for all employees.
The organization forced change within the LAFD, transforming segregation to integration, thus reminding all of us just how far the Department has come in its 125 years of existence.
Chief Cummings is the leader that the department needs because he understands the pressures and responsibilities that come with his position. He is committed to moving his organization forward by introducing cutting edge technology that will assist in the following areas: response times, deployment of Emergency Medical resources, and integrating neighborhoods with their local fire stations to better provide service to all the communities of Los Angeles.
Chief Cummings understands that in order to provide world-class service, he must develop world-class leadership. He is accomplishing this through the LAFD Leadership Academy where attendees are building their skill set to accept the leadership challenges of the 21st. century fire service.
Chief Cummings has created an Information and Data Analysis Task Force to identify patterns and trends that will aid in service. This task force will allow any community to log on to the LAFD website and locate a fire station and receive the following information; how many firefighters are assigned, what equipment and supplies are housed/stored, and response times and resource types that are assigned to that fire station.
Relying heavily on the men and women of the LAFD to reach out and assist in the personal preparedness of all, who live, work, reside and travel in and around Los Angeles, Chief Cummings is committed to fairness and equality for all employees and he is also confident that the LAFD will remain the premier public service life safety provider in the world.
Not bad, for a second generation fire fighter who has risen to the rank of Fire Chief who knows all too well the horrors of inequality in the fire service. A lesson learned from his father Louie Cummings who lived through segregation and integration.
Chief Cummings remains vigilant that the unfairness of the past will never be repeated in the future.