The Tacoma Fire Department has a new chief, sort of. James P. Duggan was sworn in on Nov. 2 as the City of Tacoma’s 21st fire chief after serving as the interim chief since the retirement of Ronald W. Stephens six months ago. “Fire services remain a top priority in city core services. I am confident Chief Duggan’s experience and leadership will help the fire department continue to provide the highest level of fire and emergency services to the citizens of Tacoma,” said City Manager T.C. Broadnax when he announced his decision to name Duggan to the permanent post last month. “He is a steady hand and a proven leader,” Broadnax said at the swearing-in ceremony that was witnessed by a sea of some 300 local firefighters, police officers and elected officials. During his tenure as interim, Duggan worked to launch department-wide initiatives focused on identifying and implementing fire service industry best practices; restructured the roles and responsibilities of the operations bureaus; and adopted the “FD Cares Program” as an alternative resource for frequent 9-1-1 callers to get medical services without bogging down the system with non-priority calls. Prior to his interim position, Duggan served as assistant fire chief for six years managing the Emergency Medical Services Division.
As the top administrator of the department, Duggan will plan, direct, manage and oversee daily operations and all aspects of emergency services including implementing strategic plans and procedures, establishing efficient service delivery methods and response time mechanisms, and tracking the department’s budget, which faces cuts as the city seeks ways to control costs in a time when it is facing a $63 million biannual shortfall. “We will get through this. We will figure it out. After all, this is Tacoma,” Duggan said, adding words of thanks to the city leadership and the fire union, Local 31, for their professionalism in the face of tough financial times. “Revenues are down, but our resolve is not.” Over his 29-year career with the Tacoma Fire Department, Duggan was the first medical services officer and has also served as paramedic supervisor, fireboat pilot and firefighter. A native of Tacoma and a Wilson High School graduate, Duggan holds a bachelor of science in mathematics from the University of Washington, a bachelor of arts from the University of Puget Sound and he attended graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Duggan is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and Washington State Fire Chiefs. Duggan noted that while there has been much attention paid to Broadnax bringing many of his senior staff from San Antonio to help him in Tacoma during his first few months as city manager, little has been mentioned that Wilson graduates outnumber Lincoln High School graduates now within the senior ranks of Tacoma’s administration by a ratio of three to one. “Go Rams,” he said.