Annapolis Mourns the Passing of the City’s First Fire Chief
The City of Annapolis is mourning the passing of retired Fire Chief Charles H. Steele on July 9, 2020. Chief Steele was the City of Annapolis’ first career Fire Chief after being appointed by Mayor Joseph Griscom, Sr. in 1964. Chief Steele served until his retirement in 1987.
Annapolis Fire Chief Doug Remaley remarked of his passing: “Chief Steele brought Annapolis into the modern era. He was not only accomplished in the fire service, but he was also a devoted husband, father and community servant. He will be greatly missed.”
Chief Steele began his service to the City of Annapolis as a volunteer firefighter with Rescue Hose Company No. 1 in 1949 at the age of 16 where he worked his way to the rank of Captain. After graduation from the Annapolis High School and then serving in the United States Navy, he graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Fire Protection Technology and was hired by the Anne Arundel County Fire Prevention Bureau (which later became the Anne Arundel County Fire Department) as a Deputy Chief working on Fire Investigation and Prevention.
Due to rampant fire damage in the City of Annapolis causing soaring insurance rates, he was appointed as the Department’s first career Fire Chief by Mayor Griscom. Chief Steele oversaw the progression of the career fire service in Annapolis and is credited with laying the foundation of the modern-day Annapolis Fire Department.
Chief Steele is also credited with bringing the City from a Class 7 - ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating up to a Class 3 before his retirement. The ISO rating, also referred to as a “fire score” is a rating from 1 to 10 that indicates how well-protected your community is by the local fire department. A lower ISO rating translates into lower insurance costs for homes and businesses. It took Annapolis another 30 years to move to Class 1, the City’s current rating.
He was proud to have reduced the average costs of fires in part to developing a comprehensive water supply system for the City, increasing staffing, aggressive fire prevention, and instituting training programs for all personnel. In conjunction with the City Council, he set up the current Retirement Plan for Public Safety. He taught at many colleges to assist new firefighters to learn safer ways to do their jobs. He worked with R. Adams Cowley, a pioneer in Trauma Treatment, in conjunction with area physicians and hospitals to pioneer the Emergency Medical Services for the City of Annapolis.
Chief Steele was very proud to have been on the Board of Directors of NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) where he wrote many standards that are still in use by fire departments nationwide. He also served on the Board of the Anne Arundel General Hospital where he also worked after retiring from the Annapolis Fire Department as the Clerk of Works for eighteen years building the new Anne Arundel Medical Center complex on Jennifer Road. He was also a Past President of the Annapolis Lions Club and worked hard in fundraising efforts.
He was predeceased by his wife, Diane, and leaves behind two daughters and sons-in-law and two grandchildren. His daughter Jeanne works for the Annapolis Fire Department as the Fire Administrative Specialist.
Mayor Gavin Buckley asks that the residents of the City of Annapolis keep Chief Steele’s family and friends in their thoughts at this difficult time. He said the City is grateful to Chief Steele for creating the professional foundation of service and expertise we have in the Annapolis Fire Department today.