Retired Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath passed away yesterday, October 11, 2023. He was 70 years old. He retired in 2019, with 13.8 years of service, the second-longest serving Chief of Department in the city’s history. He was from Philadelphia, having served 32 years in PFD and retiring as Deputy Commissioner, before appointed here in 2006. Scroll down for biographical info, from our files.
Relatives and friends are invited to pay respects on Thursday, October 19, from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. Visitation will be held again on Friday, October 20 from 9 a.m. until 1045 a.m., with Funeral Mass to follow at 11 a.m. Visitation and service will be held at St. Katherine of Siena Church, 9700 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19114.
Read his obituary.
Chief McGrath over the years. Mike Legeros photos.
From the Centennial History Book (2012)
Fire Chief John T. McGrath was appointed on February 1, 2006. He was fifty-two years old, and the third chief hired from outside the fire department. He was selected by City Manager J. Russell Allen, following a national search. He was formerly a Deputy Commissioner with the Philadelphia Fire Department.
A second-generation Philadelphia firefighter—his father served thirty-five years and retired in 1986 as a Firefighter—McGrath entered the department in November 1973. He was promoted to Lieutenant (platoon officer) in 1982, and to Captain (company commander) in 1988.
In 1996, he was promoted to Battalion Chief. Also that year, he was named chairman of the Marine Firefighting Task Force, liaison to the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Philadelphia. In 1999, he was assigned as Deputy Director for Training.
In 2001, he was promoted to Division Chief and assigned as Director of Emergency Communications. Later in 2001, he was appointed to Deputy Commissioner, Technical Services. In 2004, he was appointed to Deputy Commissioner, Operations (Operations Chief).
Chief McGrath attended LaSalle University and received a Bachelor of Science in management and accounting. He’s a graduate of municipal administration programs from Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. He’s also a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program.
Chief McGrath has been associated with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation since 1998, and has served as the incident commander of the annual Memorial Weekend since 2002.
From After His Retirement (2019)
City of Raleigh Fire Chief John T. McGrath retired on October 31, 2019. He was the city’s sixteenth career fire chief, and second longest-serving, and retired with 13.8 years of service. During his tenure, from 2006 to 2019, the department grew in size, from 26 to 28 fire stations, and from 549 to 621 authorized positions. (And a budget from $42.7M to $65.6M.)
Among the organizational accomplishments: three new fire stations opened (one was a relocation), three fire stations completely remodeled, and two more new stations under construction (relocation and rebuild). Two ladder companies added, a fifth battalion added, and a restructuring of rescue resources that added two squad companies and a five-person heavy rescue.
His department expanded the staff of the fire marshal’s office from 21 to 37, as well as adds in Services and Training. There were extensive improvements in Operations, including new equipment and apparatus, and new policies and procedures. (Water supply, portable monitors, etc.) These and other upgrades helped the city receive its first ISO Class 1 rating in 2016.
Chief McGrath and his wife and grandson in the Raleigh Fire Department Centennial Parade, June 2012. Mike Legeros photo.