Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Fire Chief Dave Downey plans retirement
Thursday, April 4, 2019
Miami-Dade’s fire chief, Dave Downey, is calling it a career.
Downey said he is retiring because of the government Deferred Retirement Option Program which allows him to take the maximum amount allowed under his pension.
“I entered the DROP program five years ago and I can’t turn back,” he said during an exclusive interview with The Miami Laker. “I don’t want to leave but I don’t have a choice.”
Downey has spent 37 years as a firefighter, six years with the city of Sunrise and 31 years at Miami-Dade.
He said it all started when he was a teenager.
Downey, 56, said he accepted a friend’s invitation to visit a local fire station in Broward County. They entered the fire department’s Explorer program and the rest is history.
“I liked to play sports but being a firefighter was the closet thing to a job other than playing sports,” he said.
Downey said firefighters depending on each other’s ideas was what sold him on the profession.
After he joined Miami-Dade’s fire department, Downey left his mark as fire chief, especially during tough economic times.
He currently manages a budget of over $100 million and oversees 2,000 firefighters and certified paramedics.
Prior to his appointment to fire chief he served as Operations Division Chief, EMS Division Chief, Chief of the Training and Safety Division and most recently, as the assistant chief of operations.
Downey was the Southeast Regional coordinator for the Statewide Emergency Response Plan in Florida and he chaired the Fire Rescue Workgroup for the SE Regional Domestic Security Task Force. Downey has been a member of FL-TF1 US and R since 1991 and currently serves as one of the task force leaders. He has responded to numerous disasters domestically as well as internationally, and most recently to the earthquake in Haiti.
He is the East Coast Task Force Leader Representative and previously served on the Command and General Staff Work Group for the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System.
As fire chief, Downey said his biggest challenge came during the economic meltdown. He said he was able to maintain services despite drastic budget cuts and didn’t layoff a single firefighter or close any fire stations.
“I was pretty proud of that,” he said.
Another initiative he embraced was firefighter safety and health as some firefighters were stricken with cancer.
Downey recently assisted the Town of Miami Lakes in adding a fire rescue unit at the new fire station on the west side to increase the emergency response time.
Downey 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.
He said he has yet to make retirement plans but wants to relax a little before deciding what he wants to do next.
‘“Who knows the next step,” he said. “I have no plans yet but to relax a little bit and lose some weight while I try to figure things out by talking it over with my wife and kids.”