Fire Chief Johnny Menifee speaks to the media at the scene of an apartment fire in 2018.

Fire Chief Johnny Menifee speaks to the media at the scene of an apartment fire in 2018.

File photo provided by Michael Babbish

Southfield fire chief appointed president of Southeastern Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published July 28, 2020


SOUTHFIELD — Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee is the first African American and Southfield chief to be named as the president of the Southeastern Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs.

Menifee was sworn into his new role during a virtual ceremony June 19 by state Rep. Kyra Bolden.

According to a news release from Southfield Community Relations Director Michael Manion, the Southeastern Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs works to promote improvements in fire prevention and safety, fire suppression, emergency medical services, and emergency related services.

Another goal of the group is to foster leadership, training and networking opportunities; promote unity within the fire service; support a beneficial fire service legislative agenda; and elevate ethical standards of its members, Manion said in the release.

Menifee said he is honored and humbled by the appointment.

Right now, Menifee said, chiefs and fire department staff are under a lot of stress, and he hopes to provide some help in that area.

“It’s really a passion of mine to provide the fire chiefs with an outlet and a place to go when they are under so much pressure and stress dealing with COVID now,” Menifee said. “It’s also unknown on what the budget is going to be out of Lansing and how that’s going to affect us.”

According to a previous report, Menifee has been with the Southfield Fire Department for 27 years, beginning his service as a fire cadet/firefighter in 1993.

Menifee climbed the ranks in the department, serving in progressively more responsible, supervisory positions, including as acting battalion chief, captain, lieutenant, EMT/paramedic, and as the department’s training and safety officer.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in public safety from Sienna Heights University in addition to a master’s in technology studies with a concentration in homeland security and emergency management from Eastern Michigan University.

Menifee fulfilled staff and command executive officer training with honors and has been invited back as a guest instructor at the university level. He is also a graduate of the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and is an instructor at the Fire Training Institute at Oakland Community College training the next generation of firefighters, where he was thrice named top instructor. He is also an instructor for flashover firefighter survival and rapid intervention teams.

He was appointed Southfield Fire Chief in July 2016 after the death of former fire Chief Keith Rowley.

Menifee said he hopes to be able to work with lobbyists, representatives and senators on issues that impact local fire departments, and to collaborate on improvements to the departments.

Another benefit of the group, Menifee said, is that local chiefs can discuss any issues they may be having within their departments, and he will be using the opportunity to address mental health issues in the field.

“We get together and we talk about issues that affect the fire service and training and what we are going to do with different bills,” he said. “As far as mental health, you’re part of an organization where members are just like you. They’re experiencing the same things like with personnel, with the budget, with COVID.  We can provide them with an avenue of resources that they can get help if they need it.  You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel — you just have to ask for help.”

Madison Heights Fire Chief Greg Lelito, the former president of the organization, said during the ceremony that Menifee is a great fit for the role.

“I’m very proud of the members that are coming in behind me,” Lelito said. “Johnny is a great chief, and he’ll be a great leader of this organization, so I’m very happy.”

Chief David Brogan, of the Dearborn Heights Fire Department, was selected as vice president. Chief Gregory Flynn, of the West Bloomfield Fire Department was selected as the secretary-treasurer, and Chief Chris Stoecklein, of the Canton Fire Department, was selected as the sergeant at arms, Manion said in the release.

For more information on the Southeastern Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs, go to