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Md. county fire department’s first female fire chief set to retire

Baltimore County Fire Chief Joanne Rund led the department through the pandemic and collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge


Baltimore County Fire Chief Joanne R. Rund

Baltimore County Fire Deparment

By Lia Russell
Baltimore Sun

Joanne Rund, the first permanently appointed woman to lead the Baltimore County Fire Department, will retire in July.

“I wish Chief Rund well in her future endeavors and am thankful for her outstanding service to Baltimore County and its residents,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in a statement.

Rund said called it the “privilege of a lifetime” to be Baltimore County fire chief.

“As I prepare to turn the page to a new chapter in my career, I am confident that collectively, the Department will continue to realize its unlimited potential in the years ahead,” she said.

Olszewski tapped Rund in May 2019 to succeed Kyrle Preis III, who retired in December 2018. Rund previously served for nearly 33 years as the assistant chief for Howard County Fire and Rescue’s Bureau of Occupational Safety and Health, according to LinkedIn.

Rund was one of a handful of women who in 2019 became the first women to lead public safety agencies around the Baltimore region. Under her tenure, Olszewski said the county fire department streamlined its operations and oversaw “multiple major incidents,” including the coronavirus pandemic and collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in March.

The fire department also agreed to a consent decree in September after the U.S. Department of Justice found that the county agency had failed to properly investigate sexual harassment beginning in 2017. Rund and Olszewski said the fire department had agreed to contract with an outside organization to overhaul its reporting practices and pay a $275,000 settlement to 11 female firefighters who had their intimate photos published by a former fire specialist.

News of the consent decree came on the heels of a vote of no confidence held by the firefighters’ union, which alleged a “toxic environment” within the department. Almost 700 active and retired members of the Baltimore County Professional Firefighters’ Association voted last June that they had no faith in then-Assistant Chief Jennifer Aubert-Utz and Division Chief Francis ‘Skip’ DiPaula Jr.

A similar vote of no confidence in Rund failed to pass. Vote tallies were unavailable for Assistant Chief Paul Lurz, who retired last July following the vote.

Aubert-Utz has since become the director of public safety in St. Mary’s County.

Since then, the department has also come under scrutiny for its internal safety practices. The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health agency found 11 “serious” violations in the fire department’s response to a Reisterstown arson fire last summer in which a store roof collapsed on one first responder.

The state agency blamed a lack of equipment, uncoordinated leadership and little training, and said those oversights exposed Baltimore County firefighters to risk of injury or death.

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