EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW | New Indianapolis fire chief talks about ‘diversifying the department’

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By Nicole Pence

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 17, 2014)-- The Indianapolis Fire Department has a new chief.

Ernest Malone was promoted to the top spot, making him IFD's 42nd chief.

Malone has been with the department for 28 years and previously held the job of assistant chief.

"Our 1,200 men and women who put it on the line everyday for you and I meant what I said, I want to serve them honorably so they can always look and be proud of their fire chief," said Malone during Thursday's press conference.

Malone will succeed Chief Brian Sanford, who announced in April that he would step down as IFD chief and become Chief of Staff in the Department of Public Safety. Sanford is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease.

"Brian Sanford has been an extraordinary fire chief. I tell people he is that. He is an even better person," said Malone.

Chief Malone took time out to talk exclusively with FOX59 before the announcement. FOX59's Nicole Pence sat down with Malone to learn about the new chief's vision for the fire department.

"Hopefully, the story is hometown boy does good. The story hasn`t been written, but we are going to work very hard at it," said Malone.

Malone started his career at IFD in 1986 as a firefighter. Malone has held every merit rank in the department up to and including battalion chief.

Malone holds an associate's degree in fire science, a bachelor’s degree in business management, and a master’s degree in management. Malone is a native of Indianapolis and a product of Indianapolis Public Schools. He and his wife, Tammy, have three sons.

"This is where I want to be, and this is the job I want to do," said Malone.

Malone will lead more than 1,200 men and women, both sworn and civilian.

The majority of the department, nearly 80 percent, is white.

As an African American, Chief Malone knows he is making history. Malone is the second African American picked for the top spot. Joe Kimbrew was the City's first black fire chief in 1987.

"I am aware of it and proud of it and won`t shy away from it, but I am the fire chief for everyone, entire community and our entire department," said Malone.

Chief Malone is already working on his 100-day plan. One area Malone says he will focus on is diversifying the department.

"We embrace diversity. Diversity is not about race or gender. It is about differences in people.  We will continue to recruit everyone, but certainly there are target areas," said Malone.

Malone wants to recruit more African Americans, Latinos, and women. Women firefighters currently make up less than 5 percent.

The new chief wants to create a process to track recruitment and diversity that will measure the changes within the department.

"We will aggressively develop processes that aren't just fluff, aren`t just words.  We want to show you measurable results that in the end of five years, we were here in 2014 and then here in 2019 we can say here is the progress we made," said Malone.

Additionally, Malone plans to develop a program to target young people. Malone wants to inspire sixth, seventh, and eighth graders to become firefighters and EMS.

“This is the target group where we introduce them for what I call is 'Take a Look at us'. We are in competition for best and brightest, and we need to capture those folks early,” said Malone.

Another program in the works is “Make It Safe Indy.” Malone says this program will focus on bringing firefighters and EMS to neighborhood meetings.

“They will hear firsthand what the issues are in the neighborhood and have conversations with us about how to address those,” said Malone.

Chief Malone also wants to get international accreditation for the department. It’s a three year timeframe that shows Malone plans to be in the top spot for a while.

“I want to set the tone that I am serious about results. We will measure it. We want positive outcomes,” said Malone.

Ernie Malone will officially take over as fire chief in early August.

Nicole will share more from her one-on-one conversation with Ernie Malone tonight on NewsPoint at 11 PM.