Thursday, February 16, 2012


Former head of Chicago's 911 center named new fire commissioner
By John Byrne and Hal Dardick
Tribune reporters

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today appointed the former head of the city's 911 center as fire commissioner as he formally announced the resignation of Robert Hoff, a veteran hero firefighter.
Emanuel praised Hoff for his "determined and dedicated service," mentioning his many awards as a firefighter. "The true tribute to his service is the lives” of those he saved, Emanuel said at a news conference.
Hoff said his decision to step down was personal.
"I have part of the personal reasons here with me today,” he said, pointing to his wife, his son and two of his grandchildren. “What in life is more beautiful than spending time" with grandchildren.
Hoff also paid tribune to the firefighters he served with. “What makes you a good chief or what makes you a good commissioner is the people who serve under you."
Hoff, a third-generation hero firefighter, was appointed by then-Mayor Richard Daley to lead the department in June 2010. Hoff was popular with the rank and file.
“Unless you crawled that hall, with flames licking over your head, you don’t know what it’s like to be there,” Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 President Thomas Ryan said Wednesday night. “I know it’s a cliché, but in a job like this, you need somebody who understands what that’s like.”
Hoff, a fire veteran of more than 30 years, twice was awarded the department's top honor for bravery. In 1992, he rescued elderly residents from burning buildings following a gas explosion. In 1997, he saved 4-year-old twin boys from an Englewood building fire. Hoff also spent 21 days in a burn unit after suffering injuries fighting a fire in 1984.
The incoming fire commissioner, Jose Santiago, was an assistant deputy fire commissioner before taking over the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications in 2010 under Mayor Richard Daley. Santiago has been serving as deputy fire chief for operations since leaving OEMC.
Santiago was head of OEMC when the decision was made to shut down Lake Shore Drive during the February 2011 snowstorm that left hundreds of vehicles stranded on the roadway. He oversaw a report on how the city handled the storm that recommended more access points to the drive and rerouting buses during severe weather.
Emanuel noted that Santiago served 33 years with the Chicago Fire Department. "He has been the leader in setting the department’s long-term goals and strategy,” the mayor said. Emanuel replaced Santiago at OEMC with Gary Schenkel upon taking office.
Hoff leaves as the union is about to start negotiations on a new contract with the city. In October, Emanuel said he would not rule out trying to cut the number of firefighters per truck or closing firehouses to save money.
Emanuel was responding to Hoff’s testimony at a budget hearing that he's "deathly against” closing firehouses and reducing truck staffing.
Today, Emanuel and Santiago sidestepped questions about possible changes in the department. The primary question is "How can we do changes safely," Santiago said.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck to him. He seemed like a decent guy while he was with us.