Kristin Crowley will be LA’s first lesbian fire chief

Kristin Crowley

Kristin Crowley will be Los Angeles’ first lesbian fire chief and the department’s first LGBTQ leader. Crowley also will be the city’s first female fire chief. Photo: Los Angeles Fire Department.

Kristin Crowley will be Los Angeles’ first lesbian fire chief and the department’s first LGBTQ leader.

Crowley also will be the city’s first female fire chief in the Los Angeles Fire Department’s 136-year history.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved Crowley’s appointment Tuesday. Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated her in late January after Ralph Terrazas announced his retirement.

Crowley is a 22-year department veteran who has risen through the ranks and is a deputy chief. Terrazas promoted her several times. The department has approximately 3,400 uniformed personnel and 106 fire stations serving about 4million people across 469 square miles.

Crowley will lead an agency that has come under fire from women for allegations of a culture of racism, sexism, retaliation, and abuse.

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On Tuesday, Crowley told the council that improving the work environment was among her priorities as chief.

“As the next fire chief, my priorities will be to ensure the LAFD stands ready and remains operationally efficient to serve our communities and this great city; that we enhance and support our firefighters’ safety, health and overall well-being; and that we promote and demand a work environment that is free of harassment, discrimination and hazing,” she said.

Crowley first made history within the Los Angeles Fire Department in 2016 when she became the city’s first female and first member of the LGBTQ community to be fire marshal

Crowley and her wife, retired firefighter Hollyn Bullock, received a letter of special commendation from the fire department in 2020 for their work in fighting a wildfire in the Malibu Canyon area two years earlier.

Crowley and Bullock had planned to help a relative leave the neighborhood, but they helped convince other residents of the block to leave, too. They then stayed 16 hours to keep the blaze from destroying homes. They saved nine of the 10 homes on the street.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center calls her appointment a “historic confirmation.”

“Congratulations, Chief Crowley!,” Executive Director Joe Hollendoner said in a statement. “It is evident to me from our conversation prior to your confirmation that you are highly committed to strengthening the relationship between LAFD and Los Angeles’ LGBTQ community.”

Crowley will take over an agency where for decades female firefighters say they have encountered cruel pranks, sexual harassment and assault.

In October, female firefighters called for Terrazas to step down, accusing him of “a pervasive racist and sexist culture” within the department and failing to address it.

Garcetti defended Terrazas, saying he’d done “an excellent job leading and rebuilding (the) department.”

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Crowley tried to set a new tone for the agency.

“Our efforts will be maximized by making sure diversity is celebrated and valued, and that equity and inclusion are intertwined into every policy, procedure and practice,” she said.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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