Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr is a fourth-generation firefighter who began her career in the fire service in 1983. She is currently the Fire Chief of the Austin Fire Department and most recently served in that same position with the city of Little Rock, Arkansas; she was also Deputy Fire Chief at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Chief Kerr brings a Master’s in Public Administration (Florida International University), a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education and Health (William Paterson University), an Associate’s degree in Fire Science Technology (Broward Community College), and two certifications from the Harvard University program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government. She is also a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program. Prior to entering the fire service, Chief Kerr was a coach and physical education teacher at the high school level for 12 years.
Chief Kerr was recently elected as the President and Chair of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (first woman to hold executive office in the association’s 142 year history) where she also held positions as the First Vice President and Chair of the Human Relations Committee of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. She is also the past President of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers (NSEFO), and is actively involved as a board member of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, Fire Rescue magazine’s Editorial Board, and the Austin Area Urban League. She is also a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs; Texas Fire Chief’s Association and the Capital Area Fire Chief’s Association; and the International Association of Women in the Fire and Emergency Services. Chief Kerr also serves on the Advisory Committee for St. Edward’s University’s Public Safety Management Program. She is an avid sports enthusiast, enjoying cycling, golf, tennis, and skiing.
The Austin Fire Department is a full-time, career fire department with approximately 1,100 sworn personnel, 80 civilian personnel, 45 fire stations and seven other work sites. We serve the City of Austin, which covers 268 square miles and has population of approximately 830,000 in both an urban and suburban setting.
AFD responds to more than 84,000 incidents annually, with approximately 73 percent of the incidents being medical in nature. Other incident types include fires, hazardous condition, wildfires, and rescues (cave, high-angle, rope, vehicle, structural, etc.).
AFD’s Prevention section conducts approximately 29,000 building safety inspections annually; our units are responsible for approximately 19,000 annual hydrant inspections. Last year, AFD was able to contain fires to room of origin 82 percent of the time for structure fires and 88 percent of the time for apartment fires.