Episode 236 - Chief Otto Drozd III


One of the greatest professional moments in my life was becoming a firefighter 31 years ago. My career in the fire service started with the Hialeah Fire Department (HFD) (FL) in 1986. Throughout my fire service journey I was fortunate to have many great mentors that helped me progress through every available rank before becoming Fire Chief in 2001. I was an active member of the department’s special operation teams and served as a paramedic. It didn’t matter what type of team was proposed Hazmat, Dive Rescue, Honor Guard, etc. I wanted to do them all. While my early career consisted of becoming a technically proficient firefighter and officer, I knew that formal education would give me the best opportunity to contribute over the long term.

Having come into the fire service with a high school diploma, being able to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from Florida Atlantic University (Magna Cum laude), and a Master’s Degree in Public Management from St. Thomas University (FL) were significant personal milestones. With the door to professional development wide open, I pursued the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland, graduating in 2006. As a lifelong learner I was honored to be awarded a Fire Service Fellowship to attend Harvard University’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program in 2010, and hold designation as a Chief Fire Officer through the Center for Public Safety Excellence.

In 2009, after serving a full career with the Hialeah Fire Department, I sought new challenges. This would lead me and my family to the City of El Paso, Texas, becoming the only Fire Chief of the El Paso Fire Department to be hired from outside of the organization. Together with the support of the men and women of the Department, we were able to achieve the distinction of becoming one of only five Metro Departments to achieve international accreditation and an ISO Class One rating.

On December 3, 2012, I was appointed Fire Chief of the Orange County Fire Rescue Department. In our effort to continuously strive for excellence, we were awarded the Congressional Fire Services Institute award for excellence in Fire-Based EMS in 2017. We also improved our ISO rating from a Class 4/8b, becoming one of the largest Departments in the Nation to receive a Class One ISO rating while maintaining International Accreditation.

As a member of the IAFC since 2002, I have served on the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs’ Communications Committee in 2006, and have been a member of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs' Association since 2009. I served as a board member of the Florida Fire Chiefs' Association prior to joining the El Paso Fire Department in 2009. While in Texas, I became a member of the Texas Fire Chiefs' Association and served on their Safety and Survival Committee in 2012. In 2014-2015 I was elected to the Board of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs’ Association, and currently serve as President. I also have the honor of being President of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association.

In the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, with the support of the IAFC, IAFF, and Metro Chiefs’, I proposed the creation of a national standard and serve as a technical committee member on NFPA 3000 Standard for Response to Active Shooter/Hostile Events, and serve as a Technical committee member on NFPA 1616. I was also a member of the IAFC Unmanned Aerial Task Force, IAFC EMS Reimbursement Taskforce, and most recently was selected by the IAFC to serve as the Metro Representative - Commissioner on the Commission on Fire Accreditation International beginning in January of 2018.

Chief Drozd’s Website:


Recommended Book:

Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading - Marty Linsky and Ronald Heifetz

Recommended Movies:

The Hunt for Red October

The Gods must be Crazy