Raleigh Fire Chief Earl Fowler will retire at the end of the year, the city announced Tuesday.
Fowler began his career as a firefighter while serving in the U.S. Navy and joined the city of Raleigh Fire Department in December 1971, following in the footsteps of his father, B.T. Fowler, who served the city as a fire inspector for 35 years.
He rose through the ranks, spending nine years as a firefighter, six years as a captain, three years as a district chief and nearly 10 years as assistant chief and fire marshal before taking the department's reins in 1999.
"What an outstanding career; that's about all you can say about 34 years as a leader in the field of public safety," said City Manager J. Russell Allen, in a news release. "Earl is the consummate fire professional who has provided terrific regional leadership."
Allen said that he will conduct a nationwide search to replace the fire chief.
Fowler, a Raleigh native, said that he is most proud of the regional partnership that has formed over his six years as fire chief, with the chiefs of the Durham, Cary and Chapel Hill fire departments.
Fowler said advances in technology and building safety have helped save hundreds of lives, but there is still work to be done.
"Most fire victims are lost in one- or two-family dwellings," he said. "So we've got to get sprinklers in those residences and continue to teach people about fire prevention."