Mayor replaces city’s fire chief

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Jerry Purcell

Jerry Purcell's role as chief of the Richmond Fire Department ended this week.

Purcell remains with RFD until May retirement

Jerry Purcell worked Wednesday to help move Richmond Fire Department forward, but for the first time in nine years, he was not the fire chief as he did so.

Mayor Dave Snow announced Tuesday night that Purcell was no longer RFD’s chief.

“The City of Richmond would like to thank Jerry for his many years of excellent service,” Snow’s statement said. “In his years as chief, he consistently gave his time and talent to grow the department in leaps and bounds. The City of Richmond wishes him the very best in his future endeavors.”

Tim Brown was appointed interim chief until a search process is completed. He was sworn in Tuesday evening.

“I’m excited to take on my new role,” Brown said. “I’m happy I’ve been given this opportunity.”

Brown, who has been with RFD 34 years, had been serving as interim assistant chief. He had previously been Purcell’s assistant chief before returning to a battalion chief’s position.

“He’s done a remarkable job,” Brown said about Purcell, who was recently named the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association’s Chief of the Year for the second time.

The announcement sparked speculation that Purcell was embroiled in some kind of trouble, but Purcell said Wednesday that’s not the case. The situation has been discussed for about a week-and-a-half, but is nothing Purcell initiated, he said.

Snow confirmed later Wednesday to WWN that the change did not involve anything but a transition in anticipation of Purcell’s May retirement.

“We’d had several conversations about a timeline looking at Jerry’s transition from fire chief into his next chapter,” Snow said. “Now’s the right time to make that transition. Jerry has the best interests of the department at heart, and Tim Brown will do an excellent job as chief.”

Snow said a search will be conducted to select a new chief from within RFD.

“As we search for our new chief, I fully intend for that individual to be a member within our fire department,” Snow said.

Purcell worked Wednesday on several tasks, including a departmental training policy project. He is now a battalion chief, which was his pay grade prior to his appointment into RFD administrative positions.

Purcell will continue with the department until his planned May retirement, when he will conclude an RFD career spanning nearly four decades. The past 26 years have included leadership roles.

During Purcell’s tenure as chief, the department began its emergency medical services, shortening response times within the city. Upgrades to the city’s fire stations have also begun, and the department began in 2016 to replace all of its line trucks.

“We have accomplished an amazing amount, most of it without using tax dollars,” Purcell said.

The department also has developed the Israel “Izzy” David Edelman Fire and Police Training Center into a state-of-the-art, regional training facility. Purcell once called it a firefighter’s Disneyland.

Purcell said the focus on training and the top-notch training facility stand out during his tenure.

“The others are responsibilities, but the training facility is above and beyond,” he said.

This story was updated Dec. 8 at 10 AM to add new comments from Mayor Snow about the transition and plans to select a new chief.

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