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Las Vegas hires new fire chief

The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to hire a new fire chief.

Fernando Gray Sr. replaces Jeff Buchanan, who announced his retirement this year amid reports of some internal strife.

“I’m so excited to become a part of the Las Vegas Fire and Rescue family,” Gray told the council following a round of applause after the vote. “My family and I see this as a privilege.”

Gray said in an interview afterward that he had assessed the state of the department but that his first priority was getting to meet its staff members.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s always important for a new leader to come in and basically interact with the boots on the ground, so to speak,” he said. “So that will be the focus initially.”

Even before his hiring was made official by vote, several firefighters present at the City Council meeting shook hands with Gray.

The firefighters also were honored for responding to a blaze last month in downtown Las Vegas, in what was deemed the city’s largest fire in at least a quarter-century.

“We’re so looking forward to having you with us,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman told Gray. “We’re just so excited you’ve joined us.”

Gray started his career with the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University-Commerce. He worked in almost every capacity with that department, where he left as second in command. From 2017, he was the chief of the fire department in Aurora, Colorado.

Buchanan has two weeks left on the job. He and former Deputy Chief Dina Dalessio announced their retirement within a week of each other this year as officials were investigating the pair’s leadership. The investigation was triggered by a letter sent last year by Jon Stevenson, then-assistant chief, to Las Vegas City Manager Jorge Cervantes.

The letter alleged unprofessional behavior by Dalessio that included disparaging staff, along with religious discrimination against an assistant chief candidate. Stevenson further alleged that the two top fire officials undermined COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Review-Journal reporter Ricardo Torres-Cortez contributed to this report. Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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