Fire Chief

Upper Darby Fire Chief

Chief Derrick J.V. Sawyer

Derrick J. V. Sawyer is a 35-year veteran of the fire service and has been serving as the Fire Chief for Upper Darby Township Fire Department in Upper Darby, PA, since September 2020. Chief Sawyer served as the 19th Fire Commissioner of the PFD from June 2014 to May 2016. He provided leadership for the over 2,400 members of the department.

With a passion for educating the community on the merits of safety and preparedness, Chief Sawyer has become a coveted public speaker and revels in the opportunity to engage the community, as well as public and private sector entities. Retiring from the Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) after 31 years of service, her served as the Fire Director for Trenton Fire and Emergency Services in Trenton New Jersey before coming to Upper Darby.

Well-versed in the facets of the emergency response industry, Chief Sawyer has served in every civil service rank within the PFD, as well as every Mayoral-appointed position, including Deputy Commissioner for both Technical Services and Operations. He has held staff positions in the Technical Support Unit, headed the Department’s Homeland Security Division and has presented at the 9th Annual Montgomery County Chief Officers Seminar on the importance of information sharing as it relates to crime prevention and counterterrorism.

Over the past decade, Chief Sawyer has traveled the globe to educate diverse communities on the effectiveness of Community Risk Reduction, and fire & life safety education.  Among his most impactful presentations were the 2011 International Safety Seminar in Seoul, South Korea, and the National Fire Protection Association’s Annual Conference.  He led the award-winning Fire Prevention Division and because of his hands-on leadership, assisted the Fire Department in reducing the number of fire fatalities in the City of Philadelphia to its lowest rate in recorded history. Chief Sawyer was the 2011 recipient of the T. Seddon Duke Award for Fire Prevention.

Chief Sawyer served as the Chairperson for the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Urban Fire Safety Taskforce. He has also served as a board member for St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, Northwest Victims Services, and the American Red Cross Southeastern PA Chapter.

Chief Sawyer has augmented his academic accomplishments by graduating from the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program, the Carl Holmes Executive Development Institute and The Harvard Kennedy School of Executive Education for State and Local Government. He has obtained certifications as Fire Officer IV, Fire Instructor II, Fire Inspector, Hazardous Material Technician, and Firefighter II. Chief Sawyer holds an Associate Degree in Fire Science from Community College of Philadelphia, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Safety Administration from Holy Family University, and a Masters Degree in Homeland Security from Saint Joseph’s University.  

The Chief of the Fire Department has the following roles and responsibilities: 

  • Plan, organize and administer a program of fire prevention and public safety in accordance with approved policies and directives;
  • Review the work performed by firefighting forces in the suppression of fires;
  • Prepare, in conjunction with the Board of District Chiefs, an annual budget and capital budget for the Fire Department;
  • Develop, in conjunction with the Board of District Chiefs, departmental plans and programs and coordinate implementation thereof with the departmental staff;
  • Supervise Township Fire Department personnel;
  • Meet with community agencies to explain the Fire Department's programs and to obtain cooperation for fire prevention programs;
  • Act as a liaison between the Fire Department and other Township departments in order to achieve interdepartmental cooperation;
  • Oversee and coordinate training programs for all fire fighting personnel;
  • Coordinate collection and dissemination of information concerning emergency training;
  • Have the authority to be the incident manager of fire/rescue operations when he is at the scene of any incident occurring in Upper Darby and to work with the established command of the District Chiefs at the scene of any incident. As used in this subsection an incident shall mean any situation that requires a response by the fire department;
  • Prepare and submit annually a status report of the operations and activities of the fire department to the Mayor, Township Council, and the Board of District Chiefs;
  • Review building permit application drawings and provide advice to the Director of Licenses and Inspection regarding:
    • Compliance with the Township Fire Code
    • Compliance with the Township Building Code
    • Requirements for the handling and storage of flammable materials. 
  • Serve as the Fire and Rescue Services and Hazardous Materials Officer as outlined in the Upper Darby Township Emergency Operations Plan.

Always dial 9-1-1 immediately for ALL fire, police, and medical emergencies