Fire Chief Edward P. Plaugher announced Tuesday morning that he will retire from the Arlington Fire Department on June 30, after 10 years as head of the department.
“I have put a tremendous amount of time and energy into this work,” said Plaugher, 56. “Now is the time to spend quality time with family. I’m putting 100-percent energy on the family — at least for 6 months, I’m going to spend all my time with them.”
Delaying his actual retirement until summer, Plaugher said, should give county leaders time to select the next fire chief. Starting in mid-April, the process will seek input on what to look for in the next chief from all members of the department.
Plaugher will urge the county to hire someone from inside the department. “I think there’s a remarkable set of talent inside this organization,” he said.
Whether the next fire chief comes from inside or outside the department, there will be big boots to fill, said Kim Smith, Arlington Civic Federation public services committee co-chair. “It’s going to be very difficult to find someone with his knowledge, and with the support of his people,” she said.
Plaugher was a strong leader in the department, she said. “He is a genuinely delightful, caring, considerate person, who had visions for that fire department, even though he wasn’t able to implement all of them. He had a real rudder in this county.”
<b>WITH FORMER POLICE</b> Chief Ed Flynn, Plaugher led the regional response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack at the Pentagon. Arlington’s departments coordinated efforts by firefighters and police officers from D.C., Fairfax, Loudoun and Alexandria, and some from as far afield as New Mexico.
Since 1995, Plaugher had been preparing the county for a terrorist attack, upgrading equipment and training for the department.
In July 2002, as county and federal agencies presented a final assessment of the response on Sept. 11, Plaugher said that his background, and the history of other local chiefs, helped in coordinating fire fighting efforts.
Plaugher spent 38 years working in fire departments, 24 of them in the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, where he rose to the rank of deputy chief.
<b>ALTHOUGH HE STILL</B> has three months, Plaugher has already made plans for his retirement. “We’re talking about going Down Under, and driving to Alaska,” he said, trips that will let him spend more time with his grandchildren.
After that, he may become a consultant for other fire departments. “That probably will be in my future,” said Plaugher. “I will continue to contribute in the homeland security arena.”
Retiring from the fire department will let him decide “what I want to do when I grow up.” Little boys dream of growing up to be firemen, Plaugher said, and that’s what he’s been since he was a teenager.
A native Arlingtonian, Plaugher was also born to firefighting: his father Carl was a volunteer fire chief in Dunn Loring, and his brother Carl is fire chief in Orange County, Fla.
He and his family have lived in Arlington while he worked in Northern Virginia departments. But now he will be moving west. “We have another home outside Middleburg. We kept it for this purpose,” said Plaugher.
His departure will not go unmourned. “I wish him well,” said Smith. “But I’m going to miss him dearly.”