Austin hires first African-American fire chief

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council voted to approve City Manager Spencer Cronk’s choice to lead the Austin Fire Department.

Joel Baker is the City’s new fire chief and the first African-American chief to lead the department’s 1,100 employees in 45 fire stations.

Baker was most recently the fire chief for the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. He recently retired with more than 30 years as a firefighter in the Atlanta area.

In a statement released earlier this month, Chief Baker said, “Austin is a fantastic city and I am looking forward to the next chapter of my career in Texas.”

“I am excited and proud to begin leading the more than 1,000 members of the Austin Fire Department who work each day to keep the community safe.”
 According to the city’s press release, “Baker began his fire career with the East Point, Ga. Fire Department, an Atlanta suburb, in 1986. Two years later, he joined the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. During his career in Atlanta he served as lieutenant in the Field Operations division and the fire training academy, captain of the department’s Hazardous Material/Technical Rescue Unit, deputy fire chief for Airport Operations, assistant chief to the Office of Support Services, and finally as fire chief. Baker served as a Marine before beginning his firefighting career. Additionally, he served for 10 years in the Navy Reserve. Baker has an Associate Degree in Applied Fire Science, Bachelor of Science in Human Resources Development, and Master of Public Administration.”

In July, Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr stepped down from the Austin Fire Department after nine years to become the fire chief in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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