Final Farewell to Former Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Harold Hairston

The Philadelphia Fire Department mourned former Fire Commissioner Harold Hairston with a funeral procession Thursday as fellow firefighters remembered Hairston's strong leadership.

Hairston died last week at 76.

Current Mayor Jim Kenney and other city dignitaries are expected to attend Hairston’s funeral at New Covenant Church along Germantown Avenue in Mt Airy. The 10 a.m. funeral followed a viewing that began at 7 a.m.

"The late commissioner was a fantastic man, he was a no nonsense kind of man," said fire Lt. Bernard Gilliam. "He was very even-keeled."

Hairston will be laid to rest at Ivy Hill Cemetery on East Road in Philadelphia following the funeral service, said the fire department.

Former Mayor Ed Rendell appointed Hairston in 1992, as the city's first African-American fire commissioner. Hairston served 12 years, also under the Street Administration, until his retirement in 2004.

His appointment gave hope to Black firefighters around the city.

"It put a face on the fact that I could be fire commissioner," said Gilliam.

"Thank you for your service Sir," said the fire department in a Facebook post. [[399640011, C]]

He was named Fire Chief of the Year by Metropolitan Fire Chiefs and earned many other honors. He left a lasting legacy on the department including the smoke alarm program for thousands of homes.

"I am deeply saddened by the news of Commissioner Hairston's passing," said Kenney in a statement. "He was a dedicated firefighter and an outstanding commissioner. He left a lasting impact on the Department and our city. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. He will be missed." [[238427591, C]]

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