Bonnie Bleskachek was named chief of the Minneapolis Fire Department on November 7, 2004. Prior to this appointment, Bleskachek was a battalion chief managing a fire district with five stations. She has also served in the department as captain, human resources officer, and deputy chief of training.
Debra Pryor was chosen as the next chief of the Berkeley, California, Fire Department in November, 2004. She is only the second African-American woman to be chief of a career-level fire department.
Hope Powell, the acting fire chief of Waldo (Florida) Fire and Rescue, was killed on February 26 in the off-duty crash of an all-terrain vehicle. Powell, who was 39, was serving as acting chief while Chief Andy Burkhalter deployed to Iraq
Rebecca Helwig, a volunteer firefighter with the Country Fire Authority, was killed in the line of duty on February 17, 2006, at the scene of a grass fire near Wodonga, in northeast Victoria. According to news reports, she was working with the Barnawartha Brigade at the fire and was helping to move a hose line when she fell under the wheels of a fire engine and was run over.
Helwig, who was 41, leaves a husband and three young children. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, her family is also involved with the fire brigade.
Sally Renee Clark, a firefighter with the Pleasant Ridge Volunteer Fire Department in Laurel, Mississippi, died in the line of duty on Monday, April 18.
Lansing, Michigan, Fire Lieutenant Marie Rosicky was severely burned in a house fire on February 21.
Captain Jocelyn Roberts, of Richmond Fire Rescue in British Columbia, Canada, died unexpectedly on February 2, 2005.
On March 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis found in favor of two women firefighters who have been tangling with the Kansas City Fire Department over discrimination, harassment, inadequate station facilities, and improperly fitting protective gear – and then over retaliation for filing the complaints – for more than ten years. The resulting decision is particularly important because it marks the first time a federal appeals court has stated that failure to provide adequate facilities and protective gear for women firefighters constitutes sex discrimination.
According to Canadian news reports, all four of the women on the Richmond, British Columbia, Fire Department are currently on leave from the job, citing workplace sexual harassment as the reason.
The Women Chief Fire Officers Association (WCFO) is marking its 10th anniversary with a limited-edition WCFO history book, to tell their story in words and pictures. They are asking women who are chief officers and aspiring officers to share their bios and stories for the book. They will include as many of these in the book as possible.
Copies of the book may be pre-ordered (by March 22) for a special price of just $49.25. You can download your order form and the biography or story submission instructions from WCFO's website.
For more information, contact Debra J. Jarvis at 317/213-0102 or .
An army of volunteers from across the country is hard at work in New Orleans, and more help is very much needed. If you can donate some time, and can get yourself to New Orleans, here is how to connect with one of the key organizations that is helping to clean up the Katrina-devastated area.
was held in North Bend, Washington, in July of 2003. Read about BLAZE and their fire training camps for young women. The next camp is scheduled for the summer of 2005.
WFS has also collected stories from women who responded to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon following the September 11 attacks. They are posted in the Articles section of our site.
Let us know about news involving fire and rescue service women in your area. Use the form on our contact page to send us your news.
NETWORKING THE WOMEN OF TODAY'S FIREFIGHTING WORLD, AND PROVIDING RESOURCES TO HELP BUILD THE FIRE SERVICE OF THE FUTURE