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Safety: a Chief priority

Gretchen Hoffman

GLENDALE -- Ten years ago, then-Batallion Chief Don Biggs led a

five-engine strike team into the heart of the Los Angeles riots.

For the next 14 hours, they went from fire to fire, surrounded by a


crowd of onlookers -- unnerving if they’d stopped to think about it

considering the violence around them.

Looters were around every turn, and some of Biggs’ team were

threatened at gunpoint, but they fared better than many others,


firefighters included -- they all went home.

To the new assistant chief of the Glendale Fire Department, that’s the

most important factor in each and every incident firefighters respond to.

“Everybody goes home,” Biggs said.

Biggs, 53, took over in his new position on Wednesday, and a formal

pinning ceremony took place Monday. The 30-year veteran of the department

served most recently as a Battalion Chief in charge of training, and he

spent a lot of time devising ways for firefighters to do their jobs



“Because there are so many things that can happen that we can’t

anticipate, [firefighters] have to know how to do the basics really

well,” Biggs said. “That goes all the way from a rookie firefighter

that’s just learning all the way up to the fire chief.”

“I’d like to think that’s what the chief and assistant chief do, help

people do the job better,” he added.

As assistant chief, Biggs will share the responsibilities of Chief


Chris Gray, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department.

Working with firefighters, and the public, is also an important part

of the job, Biggs said.

Biggs has an incredible ability to navigate through the ranks of the

department and is always “warmly received by the troops,” Capt. Robert

Doyle said. “Chief Biggs comes, he brings security.”

Biggs, who was saddled with a lot of administrative details in his

last position, said he looks forward to spending more time at fire

scenes, listening to firefighters’ ideas and concerns.

“I’m kind of a sucker for ideas,” Biggs said. “If somebody throws out

an idea, I’ll try to support it. Sometimes that involves a lot of my

time, but that’s OK.”

“I don’t want to control what’s going on around me. I want to

understand it and support it,” Biggs said.

“He knows how to use visionaries ... and harness that,” Doyle added.

Biggs, a Vietnam veteran, grew up in Glendale and now lives with his

wife in Santa Clarita. He has three children and one grandson.