On June 28, 2004, Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz, the incident commander at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, replaced retiring Chief of Department Edward Plaugher. Schwartz is the the first member of the Arlington County Fire Department to rise through the ranks to chief of department since the 1970s.
Plaugher was a member of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department before his appointment to Arlington's top job in 1993. Plaugher's predecessor, Thomas Hawkins, was a member of the fire science faculty at Northern Virginia Community College. Hawkins replaced Robert Groshon, the last fire chief to advance through the ranks of the Arlington County Fire Department. Groshon retired in 1978.
Arlington County's first two paid fire chiefs - Albert Scheffel and Joseph Clements - started as volunteer firefighters and worked their way up the ranks.
Arlington County government released the following press release on May 14:
It’s a role for which Jim 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.
Today, Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee announced that he has appointed Assistant Chief James Schwartz to be the County’s next Fire Chief, effective June 28.
“Jim Schwartz was a clear choice after an extensive review, which included input from the rank-and-file and the community,” said County Manager Ron Carlee. “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.”
Schwartz, 46, will succeed Edward P. Plaugher, who will retire on June 25, following a 38-year fire service career. He was chosen following an extensive review and interview process with fire department leadership, line fire fighters and community leaders.
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. “The Department is a remarkable group of men and women who are dedicated to serving a great community. Our primary focus will continue to be providing extraordinary service in our prevention and public education programs, as well as emergency response. In addition, our focus on terrorism and disaster preparedness response will not waiver, nor will the Department’s commitment to the professional development of its members.”
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. While Assistant Chief of Operations, he was also the Program Manager for the Washington Area National Medical Response Team, which consists of area Hazmat, EMS and law enforcement personnel trained to respond to acts of terrorism.
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 seven-year-old Holden.