McCarey Retires In Philadelphia, Rizzo Appointed
James J. McCarey, the only man who has ever held every rank in the Philadelphia Fire Department, retired as commissioner on January 1. The new commissioner is Joseph Rizzo, a battalion chief who was appointed to head the department by Philadelphia’s new mayor, Frank Rizzo.
The new commissioner will mark his 25th year with the Philadelphia Fire Department on June 1. Most of his time in the department has been in “center city,” Philadelphia’s high-value district.
After retiring as commissioner, McCarey became staff vice president in charge of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Safety Council. The council has diversified safety programs encompassing fire and accident prevention in commerce, industry, schools and homes, as well as on the streets.
McCarey, who served 31 years in the department, became a fire fighter on January 1, 1941, and was promoted to lieutenant in 1946, to captain in 1950, to battalion chief in 1953, to deputy chief in 1958 and to the highest civil service rank, assistant chief, in 1961. He was appointed deputy commissioner and chief of the uniformed forces in 1964. In February 1965, McCarey was named acting commissioner and on June 28 of that year, he was appointed commissioner.
Under McCarey’s leadership as commissioner, a 15-year replacement program for apparatus was instituted and the replacement of old fire stations was speeded. The department’s rescue squad fleet was increased from 13 to 19 and changes in the fire marshal’s office resulted in greater efficiency with higher arrest and conviction figures for incendiary fires and false alarms. Also, construction was started to relocate the fire department training facilities, and a new fireground communications system was developed under McCarey’s supervision.
During McCarey’s years as commissioner, the Philadelphia Fire Department won many awards for fire prevention, including several top awards in National Fire Protection Association annual contests. Philadelphia for a decade has reported the lowest number of building fires per thousand population of any major city in the country.
McCarey was a member of the Metropolitan Committee of the International Association of Fire Chiefs as well as a member of the Eastern Association of Fire Chiefs.