CHIEF R. L. SMITH, PITTSBURGH, FORCED OUT BY POLITICIANS
Ends 33 Years’ Service, of Which 8 Were as Chief—Fire Loss Reduced to Lowest in City’s History—Replaced by Former Hoseman
RICHARD L. SMITH, Chief of the Pittsburgh, Pa., Fire Department for eight years and a member of the service for thirty-three years, was forced to resign, effective March 1, as the result of a change in the ruling political party. He is succeeded by John Heinz, who was dismissed as hoseman from the Fire Bureau in 1932.
Chief Smith enjoys a national reputation as a firefighter. He was President in 1932-33 of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. During his service as Chief he succeeded in reducing the per capita fire losses of his city to a marked degree. Last year the loss was reduced fifty per cent over the previous year’s figure and it is now sixty-four cents per capita.
Many of the city’s industrial and business leaders opposed the change. In commenting on Chief Smith’s dismissal, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette stated editorially:
“Mayor McNair violated a sound principle and disappointed many of his wellwishers when he removed Chief Richard L. Smith of the Bureau of Fire for mere considerations of political patronage.
“The question of the fitness of John Heinz, a former hoseman and defeated candidate for sheriff in the recent campaign, does not enter into the case. It seems not to have been mentioned at all, just as the generally admitted efficient record of Chief Smith was ignored. So far as the record of the change is concerned, fitness had absolutely nothing to do with the matter. The political patronage represented by the post was everything.
“The public certainly was satisfied with Chief Smith, under whose regime the per capita fire loss in the city had been coming down, being in the five-year period prior to 1933 the lowest in the country among cities of comparable size. As referred to, the Mayor also has shown no dissatisfaction with Mr. Smith’s record as a fire-fighter and executive.
“No one pretends to say that the Fire Bureau has been free of political interference in the past, but it is not disputed that for years, under Chief Smith, the administration of the Bureau was largely viewed as non-political. It was passed over without mention while politics in the police administration was being severely and justly arraigned.”
John Heinz, the new Chief, has served ten years as President of the City Firemen’s Protective Association, the local firemen’s union. He has a contest pending before the Civil Service Commission and claims that according to civil service rules, he should not have been dismissed as hoseman in 1932. He was one of several men discharged by the previous mayor as an economv move. Last year he ran as Democratic candidate for the office of Sheriff but was defeated.