La Verne’s 3rd Interim Fire Chief In 2 Years Is Stepping Down

LA VERNE, CA — La Verne is again on the search for a new fire chief.

Interim Fire Chief Devon Leonard will be leaving the position on Aug. 12, he announced this week. His departure signals yet another change in the department’s leadership. Leonard was the third interim chief in the past two years.

On Monday, Aug. 3, the City Council voted 5-0 to authorize City Manager Bob Russi to bring on former Long Beach and Huntington Beach fire department leader David Segura to fill the temporary role. Segura joins the department with 36 years of fire service. He is expected to assume the role as interim chief before the end of the month.

As for a permanent replacement, Russi said the city has started recruiting for a new chief. That search will ramp up once the city evaluates a Los Angeles County Fire preliminary feasibility study, he said. The study compares operations under LA County control versus current operations and would provide feedback for hiring.

“It’s gonna determine the quality and level of candidate that we need.” Russi said.

Leonard, who was hired last December, was praised by the council for his work the past seven months. Leonard’s tenure came off the heels of a $5.5 million lawsuit settlement where the city agreed to pay the firefighters’ union after allegations of retaliation by a former fire chief in February 2019.

Mayor Tim Hepburn acknowledged the situation between the city and fire department in recent years, including issues with  staffing and retention. In 2020, the city closed Fire Station No. 3 and announced it would no longer use its own ambulances and would instead contract with a third-party, both decisions due to personnel shortages.

“We’re moving forward but It’s a difficult situation we’re in and it will continue to be,” Hepburn said. “But we’re getting through this.”

Andy Glaze, a captain in the Fire Department, says that he and other fellow firefighters want to see the department go under county control so they could be given more resources and support. He says that the instability at the top is also a big reason the city can’t retain or recruit well.

“We see a fire chief here for a few months and then they’re gone just like that,” Glaze said Thursday. “We need real leadership and someone that will be able to move this department forward.”

From The Daily Bulletin