FORT DETRICK, Md. -- New Fire Chief Robert Denney joined Fort Detrick’s team Jan. 1, 2023, and has hit the ground running.
Denney, who has been with Army Fire since 2004, spent 16 years at Fort Drum in New York, and another three years at Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania before arriving here.
“Fort Drum was a FORSCOM (U.S. Army Forces Command) base with an Infantry Division. That was my initial Army Fire experience, working in an environment that was very Soldier oriented,” said Denney. “When I went to Letterkenny, it was very interesting because the environment was so different. It was primarily civilians there, and that’s when I really started to realize just how diverse the Army missions are from location to location.
“Coming to Fort Detrick, which has another unique Army mission, presents an exciting opportunity,” he continued. “The variety of tenants here, with their own unique missions, and how fire interplays with and supports those missions is an exciting new challenge for me.”
Supporting the unique organizations and missions on Fort Detrick isn’t the only challenge Denney expects to face, though.
“We’re also nestled right in the middle of a thriving and rapidly growing urban area,” said Denney. “This is just a different environment for me, with a combination of elements that makes joining the team here exciting.”
The Marine Corps veteran joined the military in the 1980s and said he has seen a change in how military installations interact with their surrounding communities from then to now.
“The military has transitioned away from installations being these separate entities and has embraced that we’re actually a big part of these communities,” said Denney. “The Army garrisons, in my time with Army Fire, have developed a better understanding of how important our role is in the community and really worked to build strong relationships between those on both sides of the fence. There has been a focus on partnering and being embedded in our communities.
“Here at Fort Detrick, particularly on the fire side, we are very involved with our surrounding community. We share a lot of resources, and quite frankly, that’s necessary,” said Denney. “This is the most close-knit community partnership I have personally experienced in Army Fire.”
Denney added that he had already met with other Fire Chiefs from Frederick, and that the Mutual Aid Agreement between the post and city is in the process of being renewed. He noted there were no significant changes to the current agreement, and that keeping it current is a matter of compliance.
“We are renewing the agreement between Forest Glen and Montgomery County, as well,” said Denney. “The same things can be said about that relationship. It is seamless. Our people are running calls with the county on a weekly basis.
“If we do have an incident at either Fort Detrick or Forest Glen, we and our community partners are prepared,” he said.
The Chief also noted that community outreach within the gates of our installations will be a priority. When it comes to safety and fire prevention, he and his team will make sure everyone is informed and prepared.
“I like the old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is home for a lot of Soldiers and their families, as well as civilians living on post,” said Denney. “It is paramount we reach out and partner with them on education and prevention.”
Denny said another major factor in his department’s success is working with the variety of tenant units on post, all with very different needs and missions.
“It’s key that we really understand their primary concerns, and how best to support the needs of their missions and workforces,” said Denney.
Chief Denney’s enthusiasm for the job is undeniable, and he says he loves talking about all things fire if given the chance. So, give him the chance when you see him on post.
Finally, the new Chief joked that he just doesn’t want to mess it up.
“There are some really great things going on here,” he said. “I've been spending a lot of time my first month here just getting to know everybody and know the team. But, it's clear to me we're at maybe even the next level of professionalism and performance of our mission here.”