James Schwarts, a resident of Del Ray, was named Arlington County's new fire chief, replacing Edward P. Plaugher, who will retire on June 25. Schwartz, 46, will assume his new duties on June 28.
Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee made the announcement over the weekend, saying, "Jim Schwartz was a clear choice after an extensive review, which included input from the rank-and-file and the community. It is a testament to the bench strength in our public safety leadership in Arlington that we had several qualified candidates. With his experience, energy and leadership, Jim is a great choice to lead this department forward."
It's a role for which Schwartz has been preparing for nearly 25 years. He majored in Fire Science Administration in college. He started his career as a fire fighter/EMT, crawling down smoky hallways, helping the sick and injured. As an instructor, he has taught and mentored dozens of new recruits. As Incident Commander at the Pentagon on 9/11, he brought distinction to Arlington's response.
Schwartz joined the Arlington Fire Department in 1984 as a fire fighter. He was the first line fire fighter [non officer] to serve as an instructor at the Arlington Fire Academy, a position he held for two years. He rose through the ranks to Lieutenant, Captain, Battalion Chief and Assistant Fire Chief.
In 1998, Schwartz was named Assistant Chief of Operations, overseeing all response-related activities, including fire, EMS, hazardous materials and technical rescue response, incident management and operational training.
"I'm honored to follow in Ed Plaugher's footsteps and am committed to building on the strong foundation he laid for us," said Schwartz. Currently, Schwartz serves as Acting Director of Arlington's new Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which was created to focus on the county's strategic priorities, specifically, planning and coordination of emergency services.
In addition Schwartz is responsible for the development of Arlington County's Metropolitan Medical Response System, a federally funded program that focuses on the integration of a community's response capabilities for a terrorism event.
Schwartz is also a member of the Interagency Board on Equipment Standardization, which is developing national standards for terrorism response equipment for the nation's first responders.
The Arlington Fire Department was the lead agency for the response to the September 11th attack at the Pentagon, where Schwartz served as Incident Commander. He has spoken to numerous local, regional, national and international audiences and media on emergency management and emergency preparedness.
Schwartz graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Fire Science Administration. He is married to Susan MacKay and has two children, Elizabeth, 10, and 7-year-old Holden.