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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

PG SENTINEL NEWSPAPER - Eugene A. Jones


Beltsville resident confirmed as new fire chief
Eugene A. Jones seeks new volunteers, improvements for departments

Published on: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 – Prince George’s Sentinel Newspaper

By Nancy Royden

There is more than one way to fight a fire, and the new fire chief in Prince George’s County said it could be done without water, hoses and equipment.

“I love being able to help people. You’re helping people all the time and in all situations. You get paid and you have an impact on people’s lives,” said Eugene A. Jones, 48, the newly confirmed fire chief of the Prince George’s Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department. “I spent a lot of time in prevention. You can stop a lot of things.”

Jones said he caught the fire-fighting bug several years ago when he went to church and found out about an open position with the county’s fire department. He said the pay was better than what he was earning working in an input and output section for a computer firm, so his interest was definitely piqued.

On July 14 in the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro, Jones received unanimous confirmation by county council members to become chief. He had been acting fire chief since February and manages a $112 million budget and a department of 825 unformed and civilian personnel, said Mark E. Brady, chief spokesperson for the fire/EMS department.

Jones is a 1978 graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C.

Since graduation from the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Training Academy in Cheltenham in 1984, Jones has worked in several different areas for the agency.
His first assignment was working near Washington, D.C. as a firefighter at the station in Mount Rainier.

Jones said most of his career has been spent as a firefighter with the department was spent with the Oxon Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

After working in Oxon Hill, Jones did fire prevention work and said it is now called the Office of the Fire Marshal. Over the years, he returned to Oxon Hill and was a captain there.

Brady said Jones led the department’s peer mediation team for 10 years, and Prince George’s firefighters were among the first in the nation to establish the program which trains firefighters to provide peer mediation services to their colleagues.

During Jones’ tenure, he was assistant to fire chiefs A.D. Bell and Ronald Siarnicki.

His experience also includes being battalion chief of the county’s most southern battalion in Upper Marlboro and being an equal opportunity and disciplinary coordinator.

“He has received numerous awards, including the Fire Chief’s Special Achievement Award for his service to the citizens of Prince George’s County and his continued commitment to community service. This is the highest honor bestowed upon a firefighter,” Brady said.

As a battalion chief, Jones supervised the day-to-day operations of more than 50 personnel. He was also executive assistant to the public safety/homeland security deputy chief administrative officer, Brady said.

After 24 years with the department, Jones retired with the rank of major in 2007, and was subsequently contacted by Johnson to discuss the possibility that he could become the chief of the department.

Jones said the fire/EMS department certainly has financial concerns, and he and others are trying their best to keep the departments functioning as best they can.
“It has been interesting. There have been a lot of challenges, especially with the budget,” he said.

Jones said building inspections are vital to protecting property. This is one area the department is expanding. Community outreach personnel are being trained to be inspectors as well.

County Executive Jack Johnson said Jones has been an excellent asset to the department.

“Chief Jones has a comprehensive background in fire/rescue service and emergency preparedness and an impressive record of professional achievement,” Johnson said. “Prince George’s County is fortunate to have such a competent and dedicated individual as our fire chief.”

Jones said getting through the tough economic times would take sacrifice from everyone in the department.

“I like helping employees think about how what they do affects the bottom line,” he said. “My biggest thing is to recruit volunteers. We have one of the lowest numbers of volunteers in the area. Training is free. Equipment is free. You get to live your dreams.”

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