Rochester Fire Chief Will Jackson announces retirement, Felipe Hernandez named interim chief

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Fire Chief Will Jackson announced his retirement Thursday after 25 years of service. He began his tenure as RFD Chief in January 2019.

Mayor Warren announced Felipe Hernandez has been appointed to fill the role of interim chief. Chief Jackson will serve in his current capacity through February to ensure a smooth transition.

“Today is a happy day,” said Mayor Lovely Warren. “I am excited that Chief Jackson has fulfilled the two-year plan he gave to me when I asked him to lead our Fire Department. He became Chief at a critical time for our City and he stepped up to the challenge. But, he told me then, that he made a promise to his wife and family to retire after 25 years of service. Well, that day is coming, and Chief Jackson’s a man of his word. So I am grateful to him for his leadership and excited that Chief Hernandez is ready to lead the department and continue our success.”

City officials say under Chief Jackson’s leadership, the RFD earned national accreditation and Rochester maintained its status as a Class 1 ISO city, which leads to lower insurance rates for homeowners and businesses. Jackson oversaw RFD’s 504 firefighters and civilian employees, who respond to approximately 36,000 calls for service each year to protect the lives and property of city residents and visitors.

Chief Hernandez will become the first Latino fire chief of a major fire department in New York state, according to city officials.

“Chief Felipe Hernandez is career Rochester Firefighter who has the respect and admiration of his peers in uniform and the people of our community,” said Mayor Warren. “Throughout his career, he has responded to calls, trained his fellow firefighters, managed major incidents, overseen our emergency preparedness and, for the past two years, he’s been at Chief Jackson’s side leading our Fire Department. There is no one more prepared and ready to command our City’s bravest than Chief Hernandez.”

Chief Hernandez began his service as a firefighter in 2000. He served as a Lieutenant in the Training Division as the department’s Municipal Training Officer and later as a Lieutenant in the line division; as a Captain with the Line Division; and as a Deputy Chief of the Emergency Management, Training and Line division. Since April 2019, he has served as Executive Deputy Chief, the second-in-command for the department.

“It is greatest honor of my career to be given this opportunity to lead the Rochester Fire Department,” said Chief Hernandez. “I know first-hand the tremendous work our firefighters do every day protecting our city, and I humbly accept the enormous responsibility of fulfilling Mayor Warren’s vision to have the best trained, best equipped fire department in the nation. I’m grateful to and humbled by the trust Mayor Warren and Chief Jackson have given me, not just today, but always.”

Chief Hernandez said he is also honored to represent the progress of Latinos in firefighting.

“Today, any Latino or Latina child can now look and say that someone who looks like me, who speaks my language cannot only be a firefighter, but be a future leader as the Fire Chief,” Chief Hernandez said. “That matters and I am proud to continue to be a role model for our entire city.”

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