Mayor Ed Pawlowski announced today that Fire Chief Bob Kudlak has decided to retire and that Deputy Chief of Operations Lee T. Laubach Jr. is being promoted to interim fire chief.
Kudlak’s retirement is effective February 2. He has served as interim chief since the January 2014 retirement of Chief Bob Scheirer.
“In his six years at or near the top of this department as Deputy Chief of Operations and then as interim chief, Bob was an effective leader,” said Pawlowski. “He earned the respect of the men who fought alongside him and those who served under his command. The department will miss his direction.”
Kudlak joined the department in 1986. In 2005, he was promoted to the position of Fire Marshal, and in 2007 he was elevated to the position of Captain of Public Affairs. In 2008, he was promoted to the position of Captain of Fire Marshals and was then promoted to Deputy Chief of Operations.
“It has been my honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Allentown for 28½ years as a firefighter and ultimately the department’s chief officer,” Kudlak said. “I thank Mayor Pawlowski for the opportunity to serve in an administrative capacity over the final quarter of my tenure. The men of this department are some of the most dedicated in the business and I wish them all a rewarding and safe career.”
“I have always been impressed by the dedication Chief Kudlak brought to the table in the daily fulfillment of his duties,” said Pawlowski. “He was the recipient of many awards and citations. They are extensive evidence of the commitment he made to the job.”
Kudlak received various Departmental Awards and numerous Unit Citations. He has been recognized for his accomplishments by the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate.
The 28-year veteran of the department worked with the Lehigh Valley Hospital Burn Prevention Foundation and is certified in the Juvenile Fire Setter Prevention Education program for the city. He has educated thousands of children in Fire Safety and Fire Education.
Kudlak is certified as a Fire Investigator through the National Association of Fire Investigators and is a member of the International Association of Arson Investigators. He is a certified expert witness in the field of arson and fire investigation, and is licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a Fire Inspector and Codes Administrator. Kudlak attained additional certifications in Hazardous Materials awareness, water rescue and is an Electronic Search Specialist through Project Lifesaver out of Chesapeake, Va.
Kudlak holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Muhlenberg College.
Kudlak was a second generation firefighter for the city. His father, Robert Sr., retired in 1996 after serving Allentown for 27 years.
Pawlowski also announced that Deputy Chief of Operations and Emergency Management Coordinator Lee T. Laubach Jr. is being promoted to Interim Chief.
Laubach is a 21-year veteran of the department, who has served as Deputy Chief for the past year.
Pawlowski said, “Lee has done an outstanding job as the Deputy Chief and as the city’s Emergency Management Coordinator. I know he will make an outstanding chief. He has the confidence of the administration, the fire department and the community.”
Deputy Chief of Operations is second in command in the department. Among other things, the Deputy Chief of Operations supervises and evaluates assistant chiefs, battalion chiefs, captains, lieutenants, fire marshals and firefighters assigned to the division as well as being responsible for all personnel and apparatus assigned to the department.
Laubach joined the department in 1993. He was promoted to Fire Specialist in August of 2002, later promoted to Lieutenant in April 2006 and was promoted to Fire Marshal in June of 2008. He was promoted to Captain of Public Affairs in October 2009 and was promoted to Assistant Chief of Fire Prevention in September 2010. He was named the department’s 2010 Firefighter of the Year.