Jamaican-Born Tracey Chin Promoted to Assistant Fire Chief in Oakland, California

The Oakland Fire Department has promoted Acting Assistant Chief, Tracey Chin, to serve permanently as Assistant Chief of Technical Operations, effective as of December 9, 2023. Her official swearing-in and promotion ceremony took place on January 19, 2024, at the Council Chamber of Oakland’s City Hall.

Long and storied career

Tracey Chin began her career with the Oakland Fire Department in 1999 as a firefighter and worked her way up through the department’s ranks, serving as a paramedic, engineer, and lieutenant, before being named captain in 2008. she was promoted to Battalion Chief in 2016. She has held a variety of positions with the department, including Administrative Captain on the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) Implementation Project and as the Program Manager of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue Team, CA-TF4, which responds to emergencies and disasters including earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, dam failures, terrorist activities, and releases of hazardous materials.

A list of many firsts

Chin was the first Asian female firefighter in Oakland, and the first Asian woman to be the director of the Recruit Academy. She was also the first Asian female captain in the city’s fire department and the first Asian female, and first Jamaican-born individual with Chinese, Indian, and African heritage to serve as its Battalion Chief.

Background and experience

Tracey Chin is the daughter of Cherry and Tenloy Chin. Her maternal grandparents are Oswald Lyn Fatt, who was half Chinese and half African, and Irene Lyn Fatt (nee Williams) of the Wei clan, who is full Chinese. Her paternal grandparents are Jackson Chin, who is full Chinese, and Lily Chin (nee Mon Sue), who is half Chinese and half Indian. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, she moved with her family to Miami, Florida, when she was six. The family moved to California in 1985, and Chin attended Mills College in Oakland where she earned a BA in economics, an MA in emergency services administration, and pursued a doctoral degree in the field. She began her fire service career after college through Merritt College’s Fire Science Technology Program in Oakland. Chin has been a member of the board of directors of the Oakland Firefighters Random Acts project, as well as a volunteer camp counselor at Champ Camp, a summer program for burn victims. She joined FEMA in 2003 and was sent to Texas in 2008 to provide aid during Hurricane Ike. She participated in a mission to Nicaragua in 2007, which brought female firefighters to work in a health clinic sponsored by Hope Clinic International. Chin’s other volunteer efforts include working with Northern California Olympic Aquatic Events. Chin received the Kiwanis Club Firefighter of the Year Award in 2010 and has taught classes in Fire Science at Merritt College in Oakland. She also taught firefighter trainees via the Oakland department’s training division.

Memorable experiences and challenges

Among her most memorable experiences during her 20-year career, Chin cites dosing an infant with the medication needed to fight an allergic reaction and working on the 31st Avenue Fire, also known as the Ghost Ship Fire OF 2016, which occurred in a former warehouse illegally converted into an artist collective during a concert attended by some 80 to 100 people. Thirty-six people died, making this the deadliest fire in Oakland’s history and California’s deadliest since the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. Among the challenges of her profession, Chin notes the difficulties of balancing personal life and work. She emphasized the importance of being able to work with others, as firefighting requires considerable social skills and in-person interactions. This is an aspect of firefighting that few people associate with the job, and while she has not been deployed to fight a wildfire in California since 2008, “I would do it again,” she said.