The Philadelphia Fire Department has promoted the first Black woman to the position of fire battalion chief.
Lisa Forrest, who in 2013 became the first Black woman to be a captain at the PFD, was appointed to her new position as fire battalion chief on Tuesday, making her the highest-ranking Black woman in the PFD. She first entered the Philadelphia Fire Academy in 2003, inspired by the bravery displayed by firefighters immediately following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was remarkable how the firefighters were of service to people during 9/11,” Forrest told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I wanted to be of service, too, and the fire department gave me that opportunity.”
As fire battalion chief, Forrest will enforce rules and regulations within her battalion. While she will continue to respond to fires, she will now take charge of the department resources at the scene of the incident.
Forrest’s promotion is significant, as only 12 percent of the employees in the PFD are female, according to data from the City of Philadelphia. Of the department’s 70 fire battalion chiefs, only two others are women.
Forrest said that while she is not sure what her new role will bring, she is looking forward to starting her work. She also hopes that more Black women will be appointed to fire battalion chief in the future.
“My real joy will come when the second one comes, that shows that it did not stop and start with me,” Forrest told the Inquirer. “I don’t want to be the only one. I’m trying to get a whole bunch of people on this train. C’mon, let’s go. This train is moving!”
The PFD comprises 13 different battalions and 63 stations. In partnership with the PFD, Penn developed the Penn Alternative Response Unit, which allows Penn students to request emergency services without fearing disciplinary actions or financial consequences.
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