Kristin Crowley was sworn in as chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department Friday, marking the first time a woman and openly gay person has led the department.
Crowley was sworn in as the department’s 19th fire chief by City Clerk Holly Wolcott at City Hall Friday afternoon, alongside her wife Hollyn Bullock — who served the Los Angeles Fire Department for 28 years before retiring about three years ago — and children Clarissa, 15, Maddie, 13 and Grayce, 11.
“Understanding what this really means, this significant moment, I don’t take that lightly,” Crowley said after she was sworn in. “… And I cannot wait to start the work. I cannot wait to work with everybody who’s here: our rank-and-file, our sworn and civilian members of the LAFD who do great things each and every day. I couldn’t be prouder to be stepping into this position and have the honor to represent the goodness of what everybody brings to work each and every day.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Crowley on Jan. 18, and her appointment was unanimously confirmed by the City Council on March 1.
The mayor spoke about Crowley’s character on Friday, saying he’s heard a lot of stories from Crowley’s friends who “always knew there was something special about her.”
He told a story about the Woolsey Fire in 2018, which was not in the city of Los Angeles but in Malibu, where Crowley had a relative whose house was threatened.
“After helping that family member evacuate, she (and Bullock) spent the next 16 hours fighting it. … Lacking cell service, they couldn’t call for backup. For equipment, they had their firefighter gear, buckets of pool water and garden hoses.”
Crowley and Bullock saved nine of the 10 homes on the street, Garcetti said.
Council President Nury Martinez also spoke during the ceremony Friday, highlighting the meaning for young girls of Crowley’s nomination as the first female fire chief.
“Women still have a long way to go. Not all of the glass ceilings have been broken. But women are making strides in different careers and different things that they’re doing across this country and across our city,” Martinez said. “This woman is not only fit for this job, but she’s capable of inspiring other little girls to do the same thing.”
Before being appointed chief, Crowley had already made history within the LAFD when she became its first female fire marshal in 2016. She took the firefighters’ exam in 1998 and placed among the top 50 scores out of 16,000 applicants, according to the department. During her 22 years at the LAFD, she rose through the ranks as firefighter, firefighter paramedic, engineer, fire inspector, captain I, captain II, battalion chief, assistant chief, fire marshal and deputy chief.
Crowley told City News Service after she was sworn in Friday that her first priority as chief is to bring her team together and ensure increased communication with her immediate command staff. After that, she’ll work to ensure that everybody within the department understands the agency’s top three priorities: making sure the department is operationally ready to respond to calls for service; enhancing firefighters’ safety, health and wellbeing; and improving the work environment.
Crowley has previously cited improving the LAFD’s work environment as among her top priorities. She is stepping in to lead an agency that has recently come under fire over allegations of a culture of racism, sexism, retaliation and abuse endured by women at the department.
“That’s something that we can work on immediately in regard to the expectations of a new command coming in. What’s going to be tolerated and what’s not going to be tolerated will be clearly articulated across the rank-and-file organization,” she told City News Service. “… And then we set a line in the sand so that everybody understands you don’t step outside of those boundaries.”
She added that she would facilitate a culture of kindness in the workplace, starting at the top.
“I’m starting with me. Number one is how I communicate, how I talk to my people, how I can collaborate with my people. But more importantly is bringing everybody along so that they feel heard, they have a voice. And more importantly, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for are solutions.”
As deputy chief, Crowley helped develop a five-year strategic plan aimed at fostering a culture within the department that is more open to change, according to the mayor’s office. She has previously said she will build on that effort to deepen existing efforts and create ways to foster equity and inclusion within the department, the mayor’s office added.