The IAFC hosted the inaugural meeting of the Women Fire Chiefs Council (WFCC) in Henderson, Nevada on May 21-22. It was a tremendous success. Sixteen of the nation’s top women fire chiefs spent two days discussing issues that pertain directly to the future of the fire and emergency service.
The Women Fire Chiefs Council was created earlier this year by the IAFC’s Board of Directors with the goal to create a group that will focus on issues that specifically impact women fire chiefs. In addition, the WFCC will make recommendations to the IAFC on strategies to increase the number of women leaders in the fire service.
There are approximately 50 women fire chiefs across the nation. WFCC offers the opportunity to build a cadre of five bugle women fire chiefs who will benefit from networking, sharing experiences, and identifying strategies to improve the fire service. The council is led by co-chairs and Fire Chiefs Donna Black of Duck, North Carolina and Kara Kalkbrenner of Phoenix, Arizona.
During the weekend conference, members tackled issues such as recruitment and retention challenges, mentorship, how to encourage young women firefighters to promote, staffing incentives, child-care issues, political influences, generational differences, and the value of higher education. They prepared for the discussions by conducting a survey prior to the meeting, which gathered important statistics and background to assist them in drilling down on pertinent issues.
We accomplished so much during our two-day conference. More importantly it was strategic in nature. This was not a venting session, nor did we look in the rear-view mirror. The women fire chiefs who attended are driven, courageous, focused women who want to build a strong path for others in the fire service. We look forward to drawing in all 50 women fire chiefs, rolling our sleeves up and building a foundation for the future. - Chief Kalkbrenner.
As a chief from a small combination department interacting with those chiefs from large metro departments and other varying department types, it became clear that we all face similar challenges in our fire service and desires to find solutions. This group is dedicated to giving back and finding ways to encourage the development of our future leaders. - Chief Donna Black.
The next meeting of the WFCC will take place in Charlotte, N.C. in July during the IAFC’s Fire-Rescue International conference.
Christine Booth is executive assistant to the IAFC CEO and executive director and staff liaison to the WFCC.
(Front row, left to right)
Mary Beth Michos, (ret.) Prince William County Fire Rescue, Woodbridge, VA; Lynn Washburn, Davenport Fire Department, Davenport, IA; Co-Chair Kara Kalkbrenner, Phoenix Fire Department, Phoenix, AZ; Co-Chair Donna Black , Duck Fire Department, Duck, NC; and Judy Smith Thill, Inver Grove Heights Fire Department, Inver Grove, MN.
(Second row, left to right)
Mary Cameli, Mesa Fire Department, Mesa, AZ; Ellen Murray, Naugatuck Fire Department, Naugatuck, CT; Julie Downey, Davie Fire & Rescue, Davie, FL; Rhoda Mae Kerr, Austin Fire Department, Austin, TX; Colleen Walz, St. John's Fire District, Johns Island, SC; Kerri Donis, Fresno Fire Department, Fresno, CA; and Kimberly Neisler, Maitland Fire Department, Maitland, FL.
(Top row, left to right)
Cheryl Horvath, Mountain Vista Fire District, Tucson, AZ
Christine Booth, IAFC Executive Assistant; and Kristin Chilton, Lexington Fire Department, Lexington, KY.