35-year Detroit Fire Department vet Chuck Simms named interim fire commissioner after Eric Jones' departure

Chuck Simms

Mayor Mike Duggan named Chuck Simms as the interim fire commissioner of the Detroit Fire Department as the city searches for a permanent replacement.

Simms, 54, temporarily replaces Eric Jones during the nationwide search for a new fire commissioner.

More: Deputy fire chief says announcement Jones was leaving came by surprise

He was born in Detroit, graduated from Pershing High School, and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in education from Wayne State University. He has two adult children and has been married to his wife for 29 years.

Simms started at the DFD at 19 and has 35 years with the department. He started as a firefighter, before serving as a fire investigator lieutenant, fire investigator captain, and chief of Arson and Fire investigations. Most recently, Simms served as 2nd deputy fire commissioner. He began that role in 2016, and has overseen the Fire Marshal, Fire investigations, Communications, and Training and Community Relations divisions.

Additionally, he has served as the union director.

"The DFFA is looking forward to working with Commissioner Simms," said Detroit Fire Fighters Union President Thomas Gehart. "We have a long-standing history of working together to bring solutions to any and all issues that are in the best interest of the citizens of Detroit as well as the hardworking firefighters and medics that we proudly represent. We congratulate Commissioner Simms on his newly appointed position and wish him continued success."

The city credits Simms with helping to reduce arson fires. According to the mayor's office, under his leadership, the number of arson suspects who were arrested rose by 74%.

"I’m humbled to have been entrusted with this incredible opportunity," Simms said. "Having been a part of the leadership team that helped our city end the 20-year fight against pre-Halloween fires and give Halloween back to the children of our city, I look forward to making an even greater impact," Simms said. "That starts with improving the morale of the department by making sure or brave men and women know they have the support they need during these stressful and challenging times." 

He has also helped to improve the city’s ISO rating, a national rating system that measures a city’s preparedness to fight fires to set homeowner insurance rates, the city said.

"Commissioner Simms has distinguished himself time and again throughout his career at the Detroit Fire Department and is ready to lead," Duggan said. "He has the experience, the respect of department members and the union. I expect him to be a compelling candidate for the role of permanent Fire Commissioner."

Simms said he hopes he will be selected to fill the permanent role.

"I’ve let the mayor know that I would love to serve this department as permanent fire commissioner for the long term and plan to offer myself as a candidate," Simms said. "I know I’ll be judged by what I do starting today, not what I’ve done over the past 35 years, so I plan to start making an impact right away."