Watch CBS News

Miami Fire Rescue's First African American Chief Retires After 32 Years

Follow CBSMIAMI.COM: Facebook | Twitter

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Talk about big shoes to fill.

Standing at 6'9", City of Miami Fire Chief Maurice L. Kemp is not only literally a towering figure at the department, but the 32-year vet is a respected leader within the city of Miami.

After more than decades of service with the City of Miami Department of Fire Rescue, Chief Kemp is retiring. He served as the Director of Fire Rescue for eight years and in the department's 119- year history, he was the first African-American to hold the position of Fire Chief.

"He has taught me everything, from the history of the organization to what it means to be loyal, and most importantly, how to manage or balance your skills as an administrator with being true to yourself as a person," said Deputy Chief Joseph Zahralban, who will take over as chief.

His outgoing boss says he'll have a unique challenge as chief, especially as Miami's skyline continues to change.

"The department has to grow as the city grows," said Chief Kemp. "We're going vertical, even more so in the density problems, it'll be a challenge for everybody and we are ready for that. We've been planning this to be an administration to build fire stations, public/private partnerships to get that done. The department is in a good place."

Wednesday morning, city leaders and fire chiefs from throughout south Florida gathered at Marlins Park to honor Chief Kemp. It was a ceremony fit for a man who has spent decades serving his community.

"I've learned that it's all about the citizens and it's not about me as the Fire Chief," he said. "It's not about the fire department, it's about service to the citizens. And with that as my guidance, I think it has served me very well."

Chief Kemp also added that while its been an honor to serve the city of Miami, he's ready for a well-deserved break.

"The first thing I'm going to do is exhale," he said. "Never in my adult life have I not had a schedule to keep, so I'm looking forward to just taking it easy and I'll figure out what's next."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.