Baltimore Fire Chief is Stepping Down

Baltimore Fire Chief James S. Clack announced Friday that he will step down, ending a five-year tenure in which he oversaw historic lows in fire deaths but implemented budget cuts that critics said compromised safety, details The Baltimore Sun.

Clack, 52, the first chief hired from outside the department’s ranks, said in an interview that he is resigning in July to be closer to family in Minnesota. He said this year’s budget is the first he’s had without substantial cuts, and he wants to leave on a high note.

His move surprised some, as Clack had agreed to a contract extension last year that would have kept him in the post through 2018. Clack, who is paid a salary of nearly $165,000, will serve through the end of July.

“I think we’ve accomplished a lot,” Clack said. “The command staff has certainly made this a safer place to live.”

Clack’s resignation is the second by a top Baltimore public safety official in the past year. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III left last summer to spend more time with family after a five-year tenure in which he oversaw a steep decline in the city’s homicide rate.

Clack came to the Baltimore Fire Department in 2008 amid a national recession. He immediately confronted a fiscal crunch, cutting back on the number of fire companies working at any given time. Last year, Clack closed two fire companies for good, drawing criticism from department members and union leaders.

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