As her department still reels from the deadly Ghost Ship Fire of December 2, Oakland Fire Department Chief Teresa Deloach Reed filed retirement papers yesterday. Her last day on the job will be May 5, the Associated Press reports.
Reed has already retired from service once: She was Assistant San Jose Fire Chief, serving for more than 24 years with that department before starting in Oakland five years ago. The 59-year-old receives an annual pension of more than $150,000 related to that former job. Examining Oakland records, the AP reports Reed will now get an additional city pension from Oakland of $36,150 a year, 15 percent of her $241,000 annual salary. Reed became eligible to be vested in the Oakland pension system just days ago.
Reed was the first African-American woman to lead such a major city department when she took the position as Oakland Fire Chief in 2012. The Chronicle writes that she's been "out of public view" since the Ghost Ship fire and as of last month we reported that she was mysteriously on leave. After the blaze that killed 36 people, news outlets learned that the address of the Ghost Ship warehouse wasn't even in the Oakland Fire Department's 12,000-commercial-building database that would have required it to receive annual inspections, and NBC Bay Area discovered that the fire department hadn't entered the warehouse in a decade to inspect it. Reed confessed that her department was not "aware what was going on" at Ghost Ship, the Chronicle recalls, but that statement was undermined by some accounts by firefighters, including those from a fire house just blocks away from the warehouse.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that Oakland's Fire Department also "botched" the Oakland Hills inspection program under Reed, which was developed after the deadly 1991 fire there. Years of tense meetings between the chief and residents in the hills "came to a head" during a committee meeting in January with an argument between Reed and a homeowner. Reed went on leave shortly thereafter, allegedly to care for a relative who fell ill, returning briefly last month and leaving again on another leave, this one unspecified, for weeks according to the Merc.
Reed will be replaced in the short term by Assistant Fire Chief Mark Hoffmann, who will be acting fire chief. “We wish her the best in whatever she does and we look forward to whatever new leadership arrives,” fire union Vice President Zac Unger told the Mercury News. Union leaders have lobbied for her departure for some time according to the Chronicle, having criticized her for her for acting as the city's fire marshal and not filling that position, which remained open for more than a year, while insisting upon interviewing low level hires.
"I want to congratulate her on a long career, first in the San Jose Fire Department and now here,” Oakland Councilman Dan Kalb told the Chron. “We need somebody to take a fresh look at the situation. ... We need to beef up certain parts of our Fire Department.” Reed has lived in Oakland for 22 years, a city bio page says. Oakland just swore in a new police chief at the end of last month.