Daniel A. Williams, fire official, dies

Posted: August 19, 2011

Daniel A. Williams, 59, of Wynnefield, a 35-year veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department who rose through the ranks to become executive chief, died of cancer Wednesday, Aug. 17, at his home.

As executive chief since 2004, Chief Williams was the spokesman for the Fire Department.

"I relied on Danny every day to get information out to the public. He treated everyone courteously," said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers. "I've known him for 35 years. The whole department is feeling his loss."

Vernon Clark, an Inquirer reporter, said, "He was always cordial and always very professional in his dealings with the press."

Chief Williams joined the Fire Department in 1976. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1989; to captain in 2000; and to battalion chief in 2003, when he took charge of Battalion 7 in West Philadelphia. He was a state-certified fire investigator.

"Danny believed the most important part of his job was educating the public about fire prevention," said former Deputy Chief Willie Williams, no relation to Daniel Williams, who retired last month. "He emphasized fire safety and recognized how tragic fires were. Fires cause loss of life; people lose their homes, their possessions, and their memories."

At his promotion ceremony in 2004, Chief Williams said, "Being a member of this great organization has been and continues to be the ultimate human service experience."

Chief Williams was past president of Club Valiants Inc., the Philadelphia chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters (IABPFF). As president in the 1990s, he expanded the Valiants' smoke-detector program and submitted testimony to City Council on the need for sprinkler systems in all high-rise buildings. He also helped establish a paramedic scholarship training program.

In 1999, as director of the Northeast Region IABPFF, he initiated a newsletter to better inform members.

"He was very approachable and was always encouraging young firefighters, male and female, white and African American, to take the tests for promotions," Willie Williams said. "He fought for better representation of minorities in the Fire Department."

Chief Williams attended what is now Bok Technical High School. While a student there, he coordinated a citywide high school walkout and rally demanding the inclusion of African American history in schools.

After graduating in 1969, he served three years in the Army, including tours of duty in South Korea and Vietnam.

He attended the National Fire Academy in Emmittsburg, Md., and completed courses in fire science at Community College of Philadelphia. In 2004, he earned a master's degree in human services from Lincoln University. He was a graduate of the Carl Holmes Executive Development Institute at Dillard University in New Orleans.

Chief Williams was a jazz aficionado and played the flute. He served as president of the public relations ministry and was a member of the men's Bible-study group at Holy Cross Baptist Church in Overbrook.

Chief Williams is survived by his wife, Joyce; daughters Nicole, Tanya, and Aqmera; a brother; two sisters; a grandson; and his former wife, Gwen.

A funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 22, at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, 2251 N. 54th St. Friends may call from 9. Burial will be in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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