Gwinnett hires first Black fire chief

Appointed fire chief, Fred Cephas, is making history after Gwinnett County commissioners approved his hiring as the county’s first Black fire chief on Tuesday.

Credit: Gwinnett County Government

Credit: Gwinnett County Government

Appointed fire chief, Fred Cephas, is making history after Gwinnett County commissioners approved his hiring as the county’s first Black fire chief on Tuesday.

Fred Cephas has made history as Gwinnett County’s first Black fire chief.

Cephas was ratified as the new chief by Gwinnett County commissioners Tuesday, on the recommendation of the county administrator.

Cephas began his fire service career in the United States Air Force, when he was assigned to the Louis F. Garland Fire Academy and trained as a Department of Defense Aircraft Rescue Firefighter. The assignment led him to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base as a first responder.

The new chief worked for the Winston-Salem Fire Department after his military service, before launching his Gwinnett County career in 2001.

Cephas rose through the ranks of the department, serving in various capacities including strategic planning, accreditation management, operations and as a licensed polygraphist. Since 2020 he has served as second in command as deputy fire chief.

“With his military background and over 20 years of experience in Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services, Fred brings a wealth of knowledge to his new role as chief,” county administrator Glenn Stephens said. “As deputy chief, he strengthened operations within the department and increased trust within the community, and I look forward to seeing where he leads the department in the future.”

Cephas said in a press release that he admired firefighters as a teenager growing up in Mobile, Ala.

The new chief said one of the most memorable events of his career was serving in the field alongside first responders while they answered emergency calls during an arctic blast that swept the nation over the past holiday.

“I’m committed to serving others — and at its core, that’s what public service and public safety are all about,” Cephas said. “I am truly honored and humbled to continue to serve the county that I love, while understanding there is still more work to be done.”

Cephas said his priorities are continuing to work on retention and team building within Fire and Emergency Services, and supporting other departments and agencies in the county government. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an MBA from Shorter University.

His promotion is effective April 1. Russell Knick, the current chief, will step into a leadership position in the County Administrator’s Office.

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