North Chicago’s fire chief, who is one of only two female fire chiefs in Illinois, announced her retirement after nearly 30 years of service. The public is invited to attend her walk-out ceremony.
North Chicago Fire Chief Dell Urban’s last day will be June 11, according to the City of North Chicago.
The City of North Chicago said that Urban has been a pioneer for women in the firefighting and EMS profession.
Urban was the first female firefighter in the history of the North Chicago Fire Department when she was hired. She previously worked as a firefighter for the Newport Township Fire Protection District.
When she was appointed North Chicago Fire Chief in June 2012, Urban was the first full-time municipal fire chief in Lake County. She is currently one of only two municipal female fire chiefs in Illinois.
“Chief Urban brought needed innovation and technological advancement to the North Chicago Fire Department.” North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham, Jr. said.
“As our city’s chief emergency management officer during the COVID crisis, she was a critical resource in helping construct the plan to fight the disease for our city employees and residents,” Rockingham said.
Urban made training and education a priority as chief. 23 members of the North Chicago Fire Department completed the Advanced Technician Firefighter course, and all but a handful have obtained their Fire Apparatus Engineer.
All Fire Department Officers have completed the Chief Fire Officer program, the highest certification designation through the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
“I am extremely proud of what our department has achieved academically since 2012,” Urban said. “At that time, only a few personnel had Fire Officer training and we systemically lacked advanced certifications.”
The department underwent an extensive remodel and rebranding of both fire stations under Urban’s leadership. The department replaced and standardized nearly all fleet of apparatus.
Physical fitness also became a priority for the department, which brought back annual physicals and promoted firefighter physical and mental wellness. Both fire stations were outfitted with workout equipment.
“Our department went from not allowing working out to embracing this philosophy,” Urban said.
Urban worked to find the department alternative funding through grants and other funding during her time as chief. In addition to millions of dollars in grants, the department received millions more in local and county awards for equipment purchases.
Urban says one of the most rewarding accomplishments was the launch of the Sound Alarm Campaign, which was in collaboration with the American Red Cross.
The campaign provides free 10-year ion lithium battery smoke detectors to North Chicago residents. Since the inception of the program, the department installed nearly 700 smoke detectors in over 330 homes.
Urban and her staff spearheaded a call notification upgrade for the department in 2014 that led to nearly a 43.5% decrease in response time.
Urban says that during her time in North Chicago, she has seen the fire service industry evolve into a safer, more structured and educated profession.
“So much has changed not only on emergency responses, but concentrating as an all-around community focused department, embracing outreach, education and prevention programs,” Urban said. “We seize any opportunity to engage and interact with our citizens outside of an emergency.”
“I will miss receiving the tone, the adrenaline rush of getting the call to help a citizen in need and offering support and reassurance while working beside the outstanding men and women of the North Chicago Fire Department,” Urban added.
The City of North Chicago said the public is invited to attend Urban’s walk-out ceremony from 3-5 p.m. June 11 at North Chicago Fire Station 1, 1850 Lewis Avenue.