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Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Bryan Tyner is Mayor Jacob Frey's pick to lead the department.

Frey said Monday that he selected Tyner after a national search that included about 40 candidates vying to replace Chief John Fruetel after his retirement at the end of this year.

"I felt like [Tyner] has been preparing for this moment through his entire career and life, and it showed in every way, shape and form," Frey said.

Tyner joined the department in 1995 and has held a variety of positions since then: firefighter, fire motor operator, fire marshal. He's also served in multiple supervisory roles, including as a fire captain, a battalion chief and, currently, as assistant chief of administration.

If selected, Tyner will become the department's second Black fire chief. The first was Alex Jackson, who served in the position from 2008 until 2012.

Tyner said he applied to become chief for the same reason he decided to join the department: "to serve my community and make a difference."

He added later that he considered it a "distinct honor" to be considered for the position. Tyner said he doesn't envision drastic overhauls for the department, which he says is "on the right track."

He said he hopes to continue efforts to diversify the city's Fire Department. Among the programs he has worked on is one that seeks to encourage public school students to become firefighters. He also served as the president of the Minneapolis African American Professional Firefighters Association, according to the city.

It has not been an easy year for the Fire Department.

In May, when dozens of buildings burned in the riots that followed George Floyd's death, many in the community said their calls for help fighting blazes resulted in a slow response from firefighters or no response at all.

Among the critics was the head of the firefighters union, who questioned why leaders didn't do more to bring in major reinforcements in the height of the unrest.

Asked what role he played in the response and what he thought of the criticism, Tyner said: "I don't think I'm going to address that."

He referred to statements Fruetel made to the Star Tribune in which the chief said the department was working with mutual aid partners to ensure that, if there is more unrest, firefighters will have adequate security to respond to emergencies.

During the unrest in May, firefighters often waited for police or National Guard members to provide protection from people who were hurling objects at them.

Frey has defended the Fire Department's response. The mayor said Monday that Tyner and other firefighters were "doing everything they absolutely could during an unprecedented time."

He added: "There's no doubt in my mind that the minimal loss of life that we saw during the unrest is, in part, due to the wonderful work of our … department, and certainly Chief Tyner is included in that."

Tyner's nomination must be approved by City Council, which is expected to take a final vote Dec. 4, after a series of public meetings.

Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994