In 1992, Deputy Fire Chief Eleni Pappas was an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California when the Los Angeles riots erupted, causing civil unrest for several days. While it was happening, she never left her 400 square-foot apartment and remembers being inspired by the fire trucks that kept the city standing. She knew then that she wanted to become a firefighter.
After college, she earned her paramedic license in 1996 from the Daniel Freeman Paramedic School in Inglewood. She began her fire service career with the Ventura County Fire Department and later with the Los Angeles City Fire Department. Eventually, Chief Pappas joined the Los Angeles County Fire Department in 2001 as a graduate in the 109th Recruit Class.
Chief Pappas is currently assigned to the Special Services Bureau and manages Command and Control, Construction and Maintenance, and the Fleet Services Divisions. Her goals are to expand the Dispatch Center with an additional 19 positions to handle the rising call volume and purchase a new computer-aided dispatch system (CAD) with GPS capabilities and integration with other fire agencies.
Additionally, she hopes to purchase additional tiller quints and fire engines to replace the aging fleet and ensure the firefighters can accomplish the Department’s mission with high-quality and dependable equipment. “My biggest goal is to keep the people in my bureau safe and healthy, both mentally and physically,” said Chief Pappas. “I hope that members of the Special Services Bureau will want to come to work every shift and be proud of the actions they take to help the public.”
Recently, Chief Pappas earned her master’s degree in Emergency Services Administration from California State University Long Beach. Even with all her accomplishments, she is most proud to be a working mother who cherishes spending quality time with her 12-year-old daughter; she cherishes listening to her play the violin and going on eco-travel trips, such as their recent trip to the Amazon jungle in South America. Chief Pappas makes a point to wake up early to make breakfast and cook dinner, so she and her daughter can eat together when the workday is done.
With 20 years of service to the Department, she appreciates the friendships she has made along the way. “I want people to regard me as a person they were proud to work with,” said Chief Pappas. “I want to be remembered for being a problem solver, a person of humor, and a person who takes responsibility for themselves and their team. Most importantly, I want others to remember that I failed many times along the way, but I had the courage to try and the courage to persist.”