Biography of Newport News Fire Chief

Kenneth L. Jones              

Fire Chief Kenneth Jones (17.8 KB)





Newport News Fire Chief, Kenneth Jones, began his career in the fire service as a 22 year old volunteer in North Hillsborough , Florida while attending the University of South Florida while pursuing a Bachelor of Science in geography. Upon graduation he settled in Alexandria Virginia where he worked in logistics for the railroad at Potomac Yards. Not satisfied with the  hum drum grind, he missed the fire service and the opportunity to help people. In 1971, Chief Jones joined the Fairfax County, Virginia Fire and Rescue Department.  

From a young firefighter/EMT he worked his way up the chain of command and served in various management and fire service positions of increasing responsibility in areas including safety, administration, recruitment, and field operations that culminated after 30 years as the Deputy Fire Chief of Training for Fairfax County , Virginia Fire and Rescue Department. 

On 1 September 2001 Ken Jones became Fire Chief for the City of Newport News, Virginia. With the attacks of 9/11 he wasted no time establishing his vision to guide the department through many changes. Under his direction, the department underwent a major transformation to allocate personnel to meet the growing needs of the community and the fire department.  Chief Jones brought a strong training background with him to the job. When he arrived a new training facility and fire station 5 were already in the works. He applied his vision and experience to assist in the re-design of the Training Bureau to incorporate new and innovative methods to deliver training. He streamlined the process and put trained firefighter/medics on the line quicker reducing the cost of training.

The department continues to evolve and is going through a Strategic Planning Process with full involvement from all employees.  This Strategic Plan was the cornerstone to the department successfully achieving International Accreditation in 2008 which is used by insurance companies to help set fire insurance rates for the locality. The rating goes from Class 1 to Class 9 with Class 1 being the highest rating possible. In 2009, the department achieved another major milestone when the Insurance Service Office (ISO) upgraded the city’s rating from a Class 3 to a Class 2. There are no Class 1 fire departments in the Commonwealth of Virginia and only six others with a Class 2 rating. This accreditation has only been achieved by 135 fire departments in the United States at the time of the award.  

Chief Jones' focus on safety for all personnel has resulted in the purchase of new personnel protective equipment for 350 firefighters. Under Chief Jones’ direction the department was successful in obtaining federal funding grants that enabled it to keep pace with changes in technology.  Always seeking the technology edge, Chief Jones introduced compressed air foam system technology in new apparatus into the department to improve the firefighting capabilities and increase safety while reducing collateral water damage to structures. Several other innovations that were introduced include mobile computers in all response vehicles to aid in dispatch and emergency operations.  

In a city with nearly half of its boundary surrounded by water there was no city fire boat when Chief Jones took the helm. Chief Jones quickly applied his extensive knowledge of resources and acquired a state of the art fireboat for the city.   Since the boat serves as a diving platform as well as a fire boat it is named in honor of the US Navy’s Master Chief Carl Brashear of “Men of Honor” fame.   

The Newport News Fire Department is also responsible for supporting the automobile tunnels connecting the city to the greater Tidewater area. Chief Jones once again led the way and Newport News became the first department in the nation to acquire robotic tunnel fire fighting apparatus. 

Throughout Chief Jones’ more than 38 years of fire service, he has continued his pursuit of excellence in all he does. He found time to earn a Master’s degree, be on the faculty of the National Fire Academy teaching classes both at home and abroad while serving serve more than 20 years in the US Coast Guard Reserve retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer Three. Not one to rest on past accomplishments, he can often be found  on the scene, in the middle of the night  responding to fire calls displaying the enthusiasm and drive of a 22 year old firefighter/EMT who lives to help others in their time of greatest need.  

Ken and wife Judy live in Newport News , Virginia . They have two grown sons, Eric and Nathan.