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Veteran Calif. FF named to department’s top spot

Oakland Fire Chief Damon Covington came up through the ranks during his 24 years with the department

By Harry Harris
Bay Area News Group

OAKLAND, Calif. — Damon Covington, a highly respected Oakland firefighter for 24 years, was named Oakland’s next permanent fire chief by Mayor Sheng Thao and City Administrator Jestin Johnson, the city announced on Friday.

Covington, 50, has been the interim fire chief since June 2023. He assumed the position following the retirement of Reginald Freeman, who served as chief less than two years after coming from Hartford, Connecticut.

In announcing the appointment, Mayor Thao said: “I am thrilled that Chief Covington has accepted this important appointment to become the next chief of our proud Oakland Fire Department. Damon Covington has a distinguished professional resume from his 24 years of experience in the fire service, and his personal commitment to the safety of Oaklanders is unparalleled.”

Prior to being named chief, Covington served in an array of capacities over his 24-year career with the Oakland Fire Department, including firefighter-paramedic, fire engineer, battalion chief, special operations chief and deputy fire chief.

Johnson said in the release that “Chief Covington is a highly experienced, enthusiastic leader, with a deep understanding of the complex public safety needs and emergency preparedness challenges in Oakland. His professional experience, vision for the department, and commitment to Oakland aligns perfectly with the qualities we sought in the next fire chief.”

In the release, Covington said: “I firmly believe that community engagement and proactive fire prevention efforts are integral in reducing fire incidents and ensuring the well-being of all Oakland residents, businesses, and visitors. As Fire Chief, I will work tirelessly to protect and enhance the health and safety of our dedicated members, ensure we always have the tools and resources needed to fulfill the mission and develop data-driven solutions to address the specific safety needs within Oakland’s diverse neighborhoods.”

Firefighter Zac Unger, president of Oakland Firefighters Local 55, said they are “proud that one of our members who came up through the ranks of the department has reached the top job of the department. We look forward to Chief Covington’s tenure and think he will do an excellent job.”

Covington moved to the East Bay during his early childhood and graduated from Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School. His educational accomplishments include a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Sonoma State University and a master’s in public administration from Golden Gate University.

Covington was the President of the Oakland Black Firefighters Association from 2016-2022, and previously served as the chair of the Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District. Additionally, he currently serves as an Adjunct Professor for Merritt College, where he lectures in the undergraduate Fire Science program.

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