Richmond fire chief retiring to spend more time with family; nine interviewed for his job

Richmond Fire Department offers tips for approaching fire season

Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks says he is retiring at the end of December to spend more time with his family, and added that nine candidates recently interviewed for his job.

We learned Banks planned to retire last week via this Richmond City Council proclamation.

Banks grew up and resides in Richmond and has served the Richmond Fire Department for more than 34 years. He has been praised for working his way up in the department ranks, from firefighter to fire engineer to fire captain and then battalion chief and training director.

He became interim chief in 2004 and was appointed as permanent chief in 2006.

“What I loved about being a Richmond firefighter was being able to serve the community where I grew up and still reside,” Banks said. “I was also very fortunate to work with an outstanding group of women and men throughout my career. They all love the opportunity to help others during their greatest time of need.”

Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks to retire at end of year
Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks

When asked to list some of his accomplishments, Banks cited the swift rehiring of Fire Prevention Services Division personnel following a number of retirements. The division performs fire and safety inspections, issues fire code permits and garners much-needed revenue to the city.

Banks also oversaw the staffing of a Richmond fire inspector at the Chevron Richmond Refinery following the fire of 2012, along with the procurement of a soon-to-be-commissioned fire boat. During his tenure, six of seven fire stations were outfitted with separate bathrooms and shower facilities for women.

Banks’ tenure appears to have been relatively controversy-free aside from reports of excessive overtime in his department.

“I am most proud of being able to put extraordinary people in positions of responsibility and allow them to use their knowledge, skills and abilities for the betterment of our department and city,” Banks said.

Family was one reason for the resignation. After 10 years as chief, Banks says he also feels the department could benefit from new leadership.

“I felt the timing was right for me to step aside,” he said.

Banks’ service will be honored at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The city proclamation, set to be read by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, says the fire chief “quietly made invaluable contributions” to improve the Fire Department and enhance community safety, citing  Banks’ “innovative and progressive policies.”

On Nov. 28, nine candidates for the city’s next fire chief had initial interviews. The top candidates will be scheduled for a second interview with City Manager Bill Lindsay in early December, Banks said.