Interim Fire Chief Avery Webb retires after 30 years of serving Berkeley

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Interim Fire Chief Avery Webb retired from his position Tuesday after 30 years of serving the city of Berkeley.

Webb first started his career as a firefighter in Fairfield, California, where he worked for seven and a half years before transferring to Berkeley in July 1985, according to Berkeley Fire Department Battalion Chief Paul Cavagnaro.

Over the course of his career, he served as apparatus operator, fire litigant, fire captain and battalion chief until he was finally promoted to deputy fire chief in July 2013, according to Gil Dong, interim deputy city manager.

Dong will be assuming the responsibilities of interim fire chief in Webb’s absence while maintaining his position as interim deputy city manager. Dong served as fire chief from December 2012 to June 2015 before he was promoted to his current position.

Webb also acted as public information officer during his time as interim fire chief, relaying information about fires to the media and the public.

During his tenure, Webb responded to several major fires. Most notably, he served as lieutenant during the 1991 East Bay Hills Fire and served as commander during several structure fires.

Earlier this year, under Webb’s direction as fire chief, Berkeley was the only city in Alameda County that was ranked Class 1 — the highest possible classification — for fire suppression efforts. Only 14 cities received a Class 1 ranking in California.

“He is a fair, quiet man, and he thinks things through before he acts on them,” Cavagnaro said.

Webb also worked on software that helped to maintain the fire department’s staffing, Dong said.

Prior to the program’s implementation, all records of department employees’ scheduling was done by hand, Dong said, which took hours to process. Webb introduced and worked on customizing a human resources software that made it easier to keep track of when vacancies needed to be filled.

Dong added that Webb’s legacy to the BFD is “his ability to communicate and analyze problems or situations and to work through issues or problems.”

“He was well respected by the department and by all ranks,” Dong said.

Dong said his main goals as interim fire chief will be to “maintain our staffing, our training, and our fire prevention.”

He hopes to continue making progress in department planning and develop a strong staff that is prepared to take over operations as several high-ranking officials in the fire department plan to retire in the coming years.

“Our primary goal is to make sure that we have people behind them who are well-trained,” Dong said.

Contact Jessica Lynn at [email protected].