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L.A. County picks insider to be fire chief

Los Angeles County supervisors selected Daryl Osby to be their next fire chief Tuesday, making him the first African American to lead the department.

Osby, 49, is a 27-year department veteran and is in charge of its business operations. He has previous experience as the top commander during major incidents, including the 2003 and 2005 fires in Topanga Canyon.

He was selected from a group of department insiders and inherits an agency long considered among the leaders in firefighting tactics and strategy. In addition to traditional structure and water-rescue units, the department has a large Air and Wildland Division that includes camp crews, bulldozer units and water-dropping helicopters. It has an annual budget of $923 million.

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The department’s current chief, P. Michael Freeman, 65, has held the post for more than two decades. County supervisors have been reluctant to let Freeman go and successfully lobbied Sacramento to pass a law in 2005 that allowed him to keep the job past the mandatory retirement age of 60.

In 2009, Freeman announced his retirement, but the supervisors talked him into staying for more than a year longer.

Freeman will step down next month after salary negotiations with Osby are complete.

garrett.therolf@latimes.com


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