Princeton fire chief to retire after rank-and-file firefighters threatened to quit

Princeton Fire Chief Ron Lawrence is set to retire in March after members of his department voiced they could no longer work under his leadership.

Lawrence wrote a letter to Princeton Mayor Thom Walker, City Administrator Michele McPherson and city councilors on Monday stating his retirement will take effect on March 1. He served with the Princeton Fire and Rescue Department for nearly 29 years.

“It has been an honor to work with the citizens that we serve,” Lawrence wrote. “I have had great conversations and interactions with the citizens and business owners and the support they have given me and the department has been second to none. I will miss these interactions greatly.

“There are a great bunch of firefighters on the department. They are talented and dedicated firefighters. They will flourish into outstanding firefighters. I hope they continue to grow with the department and share their knowledge with incoming firefighters.”

The end of Lawrence’s career with the PFRD comes after members of his own department leveled accusations that he had lied to the City Council about properly training new recruits, neglected to repair faulty equipment and failed to implement a chain of command.

In December, 33 Princeton firefighters supported a vote of no confidence in Lawrence, while only one voted against it. Last week, PFRD members sent a second letter to the City Council warning they would walk off the job next month if the city didn’t act to replace Lawrence.

“At midnight of February 8, 2024, the majority of the Princeton Fire and Rescue Department will be walking away from something that so many have put blood, sweat, and tears into, unless there is a change in leadership,” the letter dated Jan. 18 states. “We are unwilling to continue to work under the direction of Chief Ron Lawrence.”

Lawrence’s letter notifying city leadership of his retirement made no mention of the allegations against him.

The Princeton City Council is set to consider Lawrence’s retirement during its Thursday meeting.