Ronald Lewis, Richmond’s first African-American Fire Chief, has died

Posted at 2:50 PM, Feb 26, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. — Ronald Lewis, who served as Richmond’s Fire Chief from 1978 thru his retirement in 1995, has passed away. Lewis, 85, was Richmond’s first African-American fire chief.

“The City of Richmond recruited and tested extensively on a national level for the position of Fire Chief. Chief Lewis finished #1 in the process and on November 15, 1978, Chief Lewis accepted the offer to become Richmond’s 17th Fire Chief and head one of the largest departments in the City Government,” a Richmond Fire spokesperson said about the former chief. “He was a founding member of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) where he served as Northeast Regional Vice-President for the IABPFF for four years and it’s Affirmative Action Officer for three years. He won numerous awards throughout his career such as EEO Person of the Year for 1991 by Virginia Fire Programs Board, and the Freedom Award by Richmond Local Chapter of NAACP.”

Born in Philadelphia, he served in that city’s fire department from 1956 until his move to Richmond.

In an interview with CBS 6 prior to his retirement, Chief Lewis said he left his job with few regrets, but wished city leaders were more “in tune” with emergency responders.

Lewis lived in Richmond following his retirement.

He passed away Friday, February 23.

His memorial service is scheduled for Friday, March 1, 2019, 11 a.m. at Fifth Baptist Church, 1415 W. Cary Street, Richmond, VA 23220. The repast will be at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 216 W. Leigh Street, Richmond, VA 23219 immediately after the completion of the service.

In lieu of flowers please send donations to the Ronald C. Lewis Scholarship Fund:

Richmond Fire Police Credit Union
900 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220

Listed below are some top accomplishments and programs created by Fire Chief Lewis’ during his tenure:

Many of programs are in existence today and has severed as model across the nation:

Two successful smoke detector give-away program in 1983 and 1984, over 7,000 smoke detectors were distributed to those who needed them most

Fire deaths reduced in the City of Richmond by 75%

Fire Safety Education Program established for all fifth grade students in Richmond Public School

Complete updating of equipment and firefighters protective clothing

Implemented large diameter (4”) supply lines and a lighter self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) reducing firefighter loads over 10 pounds

Creation of Fire Fighters Physical Fitness Program

Increased hiring and promotion of minorities in the Fire Department

Creation of Hazmat unit w/weather station

Creation of River, Dive and Rescue Team

On board computers in all Suppression Division vehicles

Fire Information Management Computer System

Reorganization of Richmond Department of Fire and Emergency Services with a resultant increase in efficiency and with no increase in budget costs

Rebuilding seven of twenty-five stations and facilities within the City

Establishing a Career Development Program for Richmond’s firefighters

Sign Language Program to have Richmond’s firefighters better able to serve the hearing impaired citizens

I.D. Card in Braille to identify Fire Department personnel to unsighted citizens



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