After 37 years in the fire service and 31 years with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, Chief Dave Downey has retir. Downey, who has been the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Fire Chief for the past six years, worked his last day on Friday, May 17.
“I don’t intend on leaving the fire service totally. I’ll see where the next chapter in my life takes me, but I am sure it will include a connection with our great fire service,” Chief Downey said.
Downey was first introduced into the fire service when he joined the Fire Explorer program before being hired as a Firefighter/Paramedic with Sunrise Fire Rescue in 1982.
In January 1988, he was hired as a Firefighter/Paramedic with the Metro-Dade Fire Department, currently known as Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. Since joining Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, Downey has led an impeccable, distinguished career working his way up the ranks as a firefighter, company officer, battalion chief, division chief, and assistant fire chief to eventually become fire chief in 2013.
Originally operating as a single-unit fire patrol in 1935, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue has grown into one of the top 10 largest accredited fire-rescue departments in the southeastern United States. Currently staffed by over 2,500 employees, including almost 2,000 uniformed firefighters who are trained in both fire suppression and emergency medical response, the county’s full-service fire and rescue department is responsible for dispatching resources over an area of approximately 1,883 square miles that includes 70 fire stations responding to all of the unincorporated areas of Miami-Dade County and 29 municipalities within the county.
What stands out to Downey as one of the most rewarding achievements of his 37-year career?
“I am proud that we have developed fiscal stability, hired almost 500 firefighters, and placed six new units into service during my tenure,” he said. “Equally as important is the fact that we have put measures in place to reduce our firefighters exposure to the by-products of fire that are known carcinogens.”
Chief Downey has been a member of the FL-TF1 US&R since 1991 and currently serves as one of the Task Force Leaders. He has responded to numerous disasters domestically as well as internationally, including the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina, and earthquakes in Haiti and Turkey. Chief Downey also is a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Fire Protection Association, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, and the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association.
Above and beyond his accomplished professional experience in the fire service, as an educator since 1987, Chief Downey has developed and taught a wide range of EMS and firefighting programs. He has earned an associate’s degree in Fire Science from Broward Community College, a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Barry University, and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Nova Southeastern University.
“Recently, someone asked me what my legacy will be. Honestly, I believe that that is for others to decide, but I did begin to reflect,” Downey said. “How do I want to be remembered? I hope, in a small part, that I will be remembered for my passion for the fire service and my love of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.”