Q&A with Richmond Fire Chief Adrian Sheppard

Richmond Fire Chief Adrian Sheppard in his office at City Hall. (Photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

We recently caught up with Richmond Fire Chief Adrian Sheppard to talk about his department and some of the new life-saving innovations coming to RFD.

Sheppard has been chief for the last four and a half years at the department.

RS: What are some of the goals and objectives that you are hoping to accomplish for the Fire Department in the next fiscal year?

ADRIAN SHEPPARD: As the Fire Department, we certainly want to be aligned with the City’s goals and objectives. Some of our goals include creating emergency support functions here in the City. Our emergency support functions are basically publications that we have that help us in times of emergency if there is an event that takes place here in Richmond or the surrounding areas. So we would better able to mitigate the emergency.  We would have a playbook on how things are going to go. So we have been working diligently in keeping with the City Council’s objectives to create emergency support functions. We suspect that will be completed 2019-2020. There are 17 in total.

RS: What is the total manpower working for the Fire Department now?

ADRIAN SHEPPARD: We have 96 people, but nothing gets done individually. We rely on the police department, their dispatch center and other departments like public works.  Say if there were a flood or some other significant event where trees are down or something and the fire department can’t get through to the scene of emergency until public works clears the street.

RS: What is some of the new technology and equipment that the Fire Department will be getting soon?

ADRIAN SHEPPARD: Some the new equipment we shall be receiving is a tractor-drawn aerial truck, that is a fire truck. This is significant because the City has not had this type of equipment in the past. Looking at the kind of street and terrain that we have here during an emergency, tractor-drawn aerial truck. We will be getting two of those pieces of equipment, they each approximately $1 million dollars each.

RS: Why are tractor-drawn aerial trucks important:

ADRIAN SHEPPARD: It is most maneuverable aerial apparatus available. They can navigate around obstacles and get in and out of tighter congested areas. This gives it the ability to steer into locations that a straight frame aerial is unable to navigate. This capability provides the opportunity to get closer to a structure for firefighter access or victim rescue. In certain locations, a straight-frame aerial would require a three-point turn to make access or would simply have to park and have the crew walk their equipment to the fire location. More maneuverable responding in and around narrow streets, traffic circles/calming circles, parked cars, cul-de-sacs and traffic projects. The tractor drawn aerial can navigate into urban developments with tight access to apartment complexes, condos, offices, and college campuses. This will allow the Richmond Fire Department to reach areas not previously accessible, such as in The Point, with its narrow roads.

Genevieve Pastor-Cohen, Manager of the Office of Emergency Services (right), stands alongside Richmond fire Chief Adrian Sheppard.

RS: What has been some of the challenges in your department in the past four years?

ADRIAN SHEPPARD: My experience over each of the four years, is that has been difficult (due to financial struggles), but the City has seen it’s way through the difficult times.  We understand that, but we haven’t been able to get all of the things we wanted to achieve. We are, however, working on that objective. As mentioned, we are getting two new trucks worth o$1 millioni and four new fire engines, so that is significant. We hope to continue this trend until we outfit each of our stations with a new fire engine. Because we think it is necessary, the cycle of each fire engine is about 15 years.