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Orlando Fire Department Names New Chief

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Benjamin Barksdale Jr. is named Orlando Fire Chief. Photo: OFD

The City of Orlando has a new fire chief–Benjamin Barksdale Jr.  

Barksdale says he’s about a third of the way done with the 51 station visits he’ll be making to meet with firefighters on every shift in the city. 

He says he’s been asking them what they would change about the department and he says there’s been some common themes.

“There are some exclusions that different groups have been excluded. Not only women and minorities but just the way that the work force is set up and how assignments are made between engines, ladders, and rescues.”

That’s why he says he’ll focus on increasing the diversity and inclusiveness of the workforce which he says is currently only 20 percent female, and 44 percent African American. 

“We’re going to have the opportunity to absolutely increase the diversity with the possibility of 2 maybe 3 more fire stations over the next five years. Over the next five years a significant attrition rate that we’re looking at. Well over 150 that could be eligible to retire.”

Mayor Buddy Dyer says Barksdale brings over 32 years of experience to the position including most recently as fire chief of Prince George’s County, Maryland. 

Dyer said he also has a track record of building a work culture where everyone has a seat at the table.

“Every once in a while it’s good to take a check outside of the department. See if there’s somebody that could provide a little different perspective. And I think that’s what we need right now as we try to make sure that we have a fire department that’s reflective of our community.”

Barksdale replaces former fire chief Roderick Williams who resigned after a federal probe found him guilty of sexual harassment and retaliation against his female assistant fire chief. 

Williams who denies any wrongdoing filed an EEOC complaint saying he was forced to resign by the city.

If you’d like to listen to the story, please click on the clips above.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, ... Read Full Bio »