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Massport Names New Chief of Fire Rescue at Annual Logan SAFE and Stars Event

Fire Chief Robert Donahue set to retire in March

Friday, December 9, 2016

BOSTON – A public servant for the past 28 years, Joseph DeGrace III will be named the next Fire Chief for Massport Fire Rescue. DeGrace began his career at Massport as a firefighter in 1992. Through the years he has responded to thousands of aircraft and medical emergencies and been promoted through the ranks. DeGrace will be the 3rd African-American Fire Chief in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the 3rd African-American Fire Chief of Index E airports, those that can handle the largest aircraft in the U.S.

“Joseph DeGrace has a great wealth of knowledge and an impressive background in firefighting and emergency response,” said Massport CEO Thomas P. Glynn. “As a Deputy Chief he has helped lead the department by strengthening our collaboration and partnerships among the various emergency response agencies. I am proud to support his promotion to Fire Chief.”

DeGrace’s promotion was announced at Massport’s annual Logan SAFE and Stars event, which highlights employees that have gone above and beyond their duties to keep passengers and employees at Boston Logan and other Massport facilities safe. Prior to being named Fire Chief, DeGrace served as Deputy Fire Chief of Operations for five years. As Dep. Fire Chief, DeGrace managed the daily operations for the department’s 117 firefighters, coordinated training and emergency preparedness.

“Chief Donahue has had an exemplary record of success at Massport Fire Rescue and his talent and dedication will be missed immensely,” said Director of Aviation Ed Freni. “We are lucky to have Deputy Chief DeGrace stepping into the role to continue this track record of innovation, leadership and service.”

DeGrace has completed training programs with the MA Fire Academy, State of Connecticut and the U.S. Coast Guard, among others. He is a certified Firefighter, EMT, Hazardous Materials Technician and Fire Instructor. DeGrace has also completed leadership programs at The Partnership Inc., Bentley University and Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Chief and Leadership School. DeGrace is a member of the National Fire Protection Association, ARFF Working Group and the Fire Chief’s Association of Massachusetts.

“I’ve worked with Joe for 26 years. He is a visionary leader with an immense passion for helping people,” said Fire Chief Robert Donahue. “Serving as the Massport Fire Chief is an honor and a privilege. I’m proud to turn over this incredible responsibility to Chief Joe DeGrace.”

Chief Robert Donahue began his career in firefighting more than three decades ago. He has been Massport’s Fire Chief since 2001 and serves as a member on the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Metro Fire District. He holds degrees from North Shore Community College and Boston State College. He is a graduate of the Chief Fire Officer Management Program at the University of Massachusetts, and the Leadership in Crisis Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In 2014, the ARFF Working Group awarded Donahue with their Outstanding Service Award, one of their highest honors.

“Chief Donahue has led our Fire Rescue department with dedication and fervor for the past 15 years,” added Glynn. “Today the department is a national model in many respects and Massport has been extremely fortunate to have him as our Fire Chief. We wish Chief Donahue the best in his well-earned retirement.”

While being promoted through the ranks, Donahue achieved national recognition for several initiatives including the development of a GO TEAM with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to assess aviation disasters and conduct on-site case studies. The results of the GO TEAMs have led to many safety improvements at Logan, improved water rescue procedures and the creation of airport/community emergency planning programs. In 2016, the department hosted an international water rescue conference in Boston, the first of its kind.

“Bobby is a great guy and has been instrumental in supporting the relationship between our two departments,” said Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn. “He has always been a key partner for us. We appreciate his leadership and wish him the best in his retirement.”

Throughout his career, Donahue has demonstrated an ability to build Massport Fire Rescue into an international leader and partner in emerging ARFF techniques. Donahue worked with multi-agency teams to develop unified emergency responses for Logan Airport, Hanscom Airfield, Worcester Regional Airport, and Massport’s waterfront facilities and property. Many of his initiatives have become national models and he has been a sought out speaker at national and international conferences. Under Donahue’s leadership Logan Airport built a state-of-the-art fire training facility that is used by fire departments from all over the United States and Canada and more than 10,000 employees at Logan have been trained in CPR, first aid and use of automated defibrillators.  

Massport’s Fire Rescue responsibilities include aircraft rescue and firefighting, structural fire protection, hazardous materials response, emergency medical services, as well as fire prevention and inspections at Logan International Airport, Worcester Regional Airport and Hanscom Airfield. Massport Fire Rescue is part of the MA Metro Fire District and responds to 35 surrounding communities on a mutual aid system. Fire Rescue coordinates and implements strategies with various partners in emergency response, law enforcement and aviation security, most notably MA State Police, TSA and Customs and Border Protection. The department provides aircraft rescue and firefighting training for airports throughout New England and the United States, supports the New England region with specialized equipment/foam task force, and provides emergency preparedness and response training to airports all over the world in areas including water rescue, mass casualty incident management, fatality response, and family assistance.