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"Done Deal": SD Fire Chief Fennessy Headed For Orange County

by Jeff Powers, published

After nearly three years on the job, multiple sources have confirmed to IVN San Diego that San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy is leaving his post for the same position in Orange County.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity and came from within City Hall as well as the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

The Orange County Fire Department Public Information Officer told IVN the deal will likely be finalized pending a background check and stated "the Board will meet to discuss the appointment on March 15th, but beyond that it would be premature for us to comment."


Fennessy made headlines following public battles with the lifeguards and notably the head of the lifeguard union, Sgt. Ed Harris.

The lifeguards have charged that Fennessy and the Fire-Rescue department have overreached and created public safety issues by usurping many of the traditional lifeguard duties.

As reported by IVN last December, the San Diego Lifeguard Association voted to form their own department called the “Marine Safety Department,” and leave the Fire-Rescue Department. Voter turnout was 92% with roughly 77% voting for the new department. The vote authorized the Lifeguard Union to publicly express concerns with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and demand a separation.

That vote came four months after San Diego Lifeguards penned a letter of apology to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the citizens of Houston, after being ordered to stand down and not travel to Texas and assist with the search and rescue efforts during Hurricane Harvey.


Chief Fennessy was selected to become the fire department’s 17th chief on September 3rd, 2015.

Fennessy has more than 40 years of firefighting experience.

Since he was hired as a San Diego firefighter in 1990, Fennessy has risen through the ranks of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. Before that, he served 13 years as a firefighter and supervisor with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.


Lifeguard Sgt. Ed Harris contacted IVN San Diego and gave this response to news of Fennessy heading to Orange County:

"The City and the taxpayers dodged a bullet. Brian Fennessy forced out competent leaders in numerous key positions. He simultaneously made major changes without planning or proper evaluation. Those changes have degraded EMS, Fire dispatch and the lifeguards. It is time to put things back together now." ~ Lifeguard Sgt. Ed Harris

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