By MARGARET SHUTTLEWORTH | city news service
Kristin Crowley was sworn in as chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department on Friday, March 25, marking the first time a woman and an openly gay person has led the department.
Crowley was sworn in as the department’s 19th fire chief by City Clerk Holly Wolcott at City Hall on Friday afternoon, alongside his wife Hollyn Bullock – who served the Los Angeles Fire Department for 28 before retiring about three years ago – and children Clarissa, 15, Maddie, 13 and Grayce, 11.
“To understand what it really means, this important moment, I don’t take it lightly,” Crowley said after being sworn in. “…And I look forward to getting to work. I look forward to working with everyone here: our soldiers, our sworn and civilian members of the LAFD who are doing great things every day. I couldn’t be prouder to take on this role and to have the honor of representing the quality of what everyone brings to the job every day.
Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Crowley on January 18, and his nomination was unanimously confirmed by city council on March 1.
The mayor spoke about Crowley’s character on Friday, saying he’d heard lots of stories from Crowley’s friends who “always knew there was something special about her.”
He told a story about the 2018 Woolsey fire, which was not in the city of Los Angeles but in Malibu, where Crowley had a relative whose home was under threat.
“After helping this family member evacuate, she (and Bullock) spent the next 16 hours fighting him. …With no cell service, they couldn’t call for backup. For equipment, they had their firefighting gear, buckets of pool water, and garden hoses.
Crowley and Bullock saved nine of the 10 houses on the street, Garcetti said.
Council Speaker Nury Martinez also spoke at the ceremony on Friday, emphasizing the significance for young girls of Crowley’s appointment as the first female fire chief.
“Women still have a long way to go. Not all glass ceilings have been broken. But women are making progress in different careers and different things they do across this country and across our city,” Martinez said. “This woman is not only fit for this job, but she is able to inspire other little girls to do the same.”
Before being named chief, Crowley had already made history with the LAFD when she became its first female fire marshal in 2016. She passed the firefighters’ exam in 1998 and ranked among the Top 50 marks out of 16,000 applicants, according to the department. During her 22 years at the LAFD, she rose through the ranks as a firefighter, fire paramedic, engineer, fire inspector, captain I, captain II, battalion chief, deputy chief, fire marshal and deputy chief.
Crowley told the City News Service after being sworn in on Friday that his first priority as chief was to get his team together and ensure increased communication with his immediate command. After that, she will ensure that everyone within the department understands the agency’s top three priorities: ensuring the department is operationally ready to respond to service calls; improve the safety, health and well-being of firefighters; and improving the working environment.
Crowley has previously cited improving the LAFD’s work environment as one of his top priorities. She steps in to lead an agency that has recently come under fire for allegations of a culture of racism, sexism, retaliation and abuse suffered by women in the department.
“It’s something we can work on immediately in terms of the expectations of a new command. What is going to be tolerated and what is not going to be tolerated will be clearly articulated across the organization,” she told City. news department. “…And then we drew a line in the sand so everyone would understand that you don’t step outside of those boundaries.”
She added that she would facilitate a culture of caring in the workplace, starting at the top.
“I start with me. First, how do I communicate, how do I talk to my people, how can I collaborate with my people. But the most important thing is to involve everyone so that they feel heard, that they have a voice. And more importantly, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for are solutions.
As deputy chief, Crowley helped develop a five-year strategic plan aimed at fostering a culture within the department that was more open to change, according to the mayor’s office. She has previously said she will build on this effort to deepen existing efforts and create ways to foster equity and inclusion within the department, the mayor’s office added.