Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) welcomes Deputy Chief Kamau Bright to the Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting (ARFF) Engine 78 unit. Bright, a 19-year Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) veteran, joined Engine 78 in June. Prior to the airport, Bright was a Division Chief assigned to the Grays Ferry section of Philadelphia, where he had operational duties over one-third of the City’s firehouses and EMS units.
When approached about working at PHL, Bright knew the job was meant for him. He has always had a love for aviation and majored in aerospace engineering at Tuskegee University in Alabama. Although he was unable to fulfil his dream of becoming a pilot, he is now a part of the Division of Aviation’s team.
Bright started his career with the City of Philadelphia four years prior to joining the PFD, as a custodial worker at the Youth Study Center. After just one year he applied for -and received- a promotion to supervisor. Not bad for such a young man just starting out.
During a very brief stint with the Philadelphia Water Department, working in the same department as his father and uncle, the PFD called Bright with an offer of a lifetime that he couldn’t turn down. When asked why, he said with a laugh, “The retirement benefits were so much better at the Fire Department. I could retire at 50 years of age instead of 60 working for the Water Department.”
Working at the PFD has become a dream job. Bright’s supervising officers took notice of his work ethic and suggested he consider taking promotional exams. But Bright wasn’t interested—he liked being a firefighter in the community and enjoyed helping others.
However, Bright’s supervisors persisted, and now he credits them as mentors who helped make him into the officer that he is today. For example, Battalion Chief Sean Mack wanted him to take the lieutenant’s test for five years. Years later, Deputy Chief Carl Randolph, one of Bright’s former instructors from the fire academy, looked to Bright to be his Special Operations Battalion Chief, Bright’s assignment before being promoted to Deputy Chief.
Working as Division Chief gave Bright the opportunity to manage the overall operations of the district he managed. Since joining PHL, he has developed an appreciation for being responsible for all facets of a fire unit, including budgets, apparatus, personnel, training, and the familiar firefighting operations. Bright likes that he is responsible for each aspect of what happens at Engine 78.
PHL’s Interim CEO Keith Brune added, “PHL’s ARFF unit has been fortunate to be led by accomplished and dedicated leadership in the past who were prepared to meet the challenges of an aviation fire and rescue unit. I am certain that under Chief Bright’s direction, the unit will continue to thrive under every circumstance they may encounter.”
Bright is married with two daughters, Khaya and Kamirah, and a son, Kamani. He sees the future at ARFF being “bright” and looks forward to joining the PHL’s cargo expansion project and developing his team further.