Hurricane Katrina Crisis Leader Phil Parr May Be New FDNY Boss

NY Daily News - December 17, 2009

by Jonathan Lemire

A federal disaster specialist who ordered the evacuation of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina is in the running to be the new city Fire Commissioner, sources said.

Phil Parr, a former FDNY chief whose son is a firefighter, was interviewed this week at City Hall, the Daily News has learned.

An African-American, Parr may be part of the city's efforts to change the public image of the nearly all-white agency, the sources said. He would be only the third African-American to head the FDNY.

The onetime battalion chief was tapped to head the department's 2002 recruitment effort. He retired from the FDNY after more than two decades and joined the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

He was the lead FEMA agent on the ground in New Orleans immediately after the killer hurricane ravaged the Gulf Coast. He called for buses to take refugees out of the city after he found water lapping at the Superdome, where about 12,000 victims camped in squalor.

Parr, 51, later testified in front of Congress on the agency's performance during the days after the August 2005 hurricane.

He is now the incident management assist team leader for FEMA's New York-New Jersey region, according to the agency's Web site.

City Hall would not comment on the search to replace Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, who is retiring. Parr also was up for the job in 2001, when Scoppetta was appointed.

Among the other candidates are Chief of Department Salvatore Cassano and Mylan Denerstein, a top aide to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

With Kate Lucadamo