Downey fire chief announces retirement

DOWNEY -- Downey Fire Chief Lonnie Croom publicly announced his retirement today, effective Aug. 1. "During the last three decades, I have had the honor of serving the City of Downey alongside the most dedicated group of men and women who give their all every day to keep our community safe," Croom said in a statement. "From early on, I had decided that my retirement from the Downey Fire Department would come when I felt I had fulfilled my service to the community. I feel that time has come..."

A city press release announcing Croom's retirement didn't specify a replacement. Sources said it was unlikely the city would fill the position from within.

The Downey Firemen's Association has had a tumultuous relationship with Croom and the city of Downey for more than a year. Last May, the City Council stopped discussions with L.A. County for fire and emergency services.

One month later, the fire union voted "no confidence" in Croom, alleging he "deliberately distorted and misrepresented the facts and figures" contained in a feasibility study prepared by the L.A. County Fire District and presented to the city council.

And in December, the union filed a tort claim against the city, citing "ongoing retaliation, harassment, and discrimination" since the no-confidence vote.

Through it all, Croom has enjoyed the support of the city council, who praised him for leading the fire department "through the most difficult recession in the city's history" and making significant changes to Downey's traditional fire service delivery model to better handle an increase in medical-related calls for service.

"Chief Croom's contributions to the Downey community have been invaluable and can be attributed to the success of the Fire Department," said Mayor Fernando Vasquez. "We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have had Chief Croom lead a group of talented and dedicated individuals. We extend our sincere gratitude to Chief Croom for his many years of service and loyalty to the Downey community."

Croom was hired as a Downey firefighter in 1984 after completing the fire department's inaugural explorer program. He was promoted to paramedic in 1988, engineer in 1995, captain in 1996 and deputy fire marshal in 2008.

He was appointed fire chief in 2010, replacing Jeff Turner.

Croom has been active in the community -- his hometown -- serving with Downey Los Amigos Kiwanis, sitting on the Downey YMCA board of directors, and serving as an advisor for Warren High School's Key Club.

He was born at Downey Community Hospital, and attended Unsworth Elementary and East Middle School before graduating from Downey High.

"My retirement is bittersweet. I am excited at starting a new chapter in my life, but it's also surreal knowing that I will be leaving my Downey family," said Croom. "I would like to thank all of those who have helped me throughout my career and have shared the same vision of protecting and serving the community."