Hillsborough County Fire Rescue (HCFR) Deputy Chief of Administration Jason Dougherty will be the next fire chief of HCFR, one of the largest fire rescue departments in Florida. Former Fire Chief Dennis Jones officially retired on December 22, 2023, with 45 years dedicated to fire rescue service — all to the residents of Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa.
Dougherty has been with HCFR since 2016, has over 23 years of experience in the fire service and has served as second-in-command to Jones for the last five years.
As deputy chief of administration, Dougherty managed and oversaw HCFR’s $260 million budget, maintained 46 fire stations, handled logistics and oversaw fleet operations and the Emergency Dispatch Center — responsibilities that prepared him to take over as fire chief of the fourth-largest fire department in Florida.
A dedicated servant to public safety, Dougherty started his firefighting career in Thomasville, Georgia, in 1999 and joined Tampa Fire Rescue in 2001. He rose through the ranks with Tampa Fire Rescue from firefighter to ultimately becoming division training chief in 2014. His previous roles, which also included paramedic, lieutenant, SWAT medic, fire training officer and fire captain, have afforded him vast experience in managing medical and fire scenes, coordinating multiple teams of responders, developing policies and procedures, managing records, presenting capital improvement projects and managing and preparing an annual budget.
Dougherty is set to take over a department that made great strides under the leadership of Jones. Jones joined HCFR as fire chief in 2015, having previously served as Tampa fire chief for six years.
Over the years, the growth of HCFR was a major focus for Jones. As Hillsborough County’s population steadily grew, so did the need for more firefighters and fire stations to serve all residents in all areas of the county. Among his many accomplishments and achievements, Jones oversaw the opening of multiple new Hillsborough County fire stations and station rebuilds and the 2017 opening of the Public Safety Operations Complex, which serves as HCFR’s headquarters and the county’s emergency operations center during hurricanes and other emergency declarations.
During his tenure, the department added more than 200 new positions, rebuilt eight stations and added three new stations that feature the latest safety measures, including decontamination systems, modern station-alerting systems designed to prioritize the mental well-being of first responders and custom-made individualized bunker gear for all the county’s firefighters. Under Jones’ direction, quick response squad units were implemented to help reduce the stress of increased call volume, as well as 12 additional Advanced Life Support ambulances, new replacement apparatuses to improve the fleet, a second heavy rescue unit and a new fireboat and rescue boat.
Earlier this year, Jones was named the 2023 Florida Career Fire Chief of the Year by the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association.
Dougherty earned his bachelor’s degree in health science education from the University of Florida and his master’s degree in organizational leadership from Waldorf University.