Philadelphia Promotes First Black Female Battalion Fire Chief In 149 Years

The Philadelphia Fire Department has named Lisa Forrest as its next battalion chief. In doing so, Forrest will become the first Black woman to hold the position in its 149-year history.

“I am always proud of our Philadelphia Fire Department members who earn promotions, and make no mistake, Battalion Chief Forrest has earned this promotion through her hard work and dedication, both on- and off-duty," Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said.

"It is truly an honor to be part of this historic moment and I know that Lisa’s positive example will continue inspiring women to join the PFD and advance into every available rank.”

A fire battalion chief leads a 12 department apparatus and 50 firefighters and medics at a time. The battalion chief also enforces rules within the battalion and responds to fires and hazardous incidents.

“[Forrest] is one of the hardest-working women I know and ‘quit’ is not in her vocabulary,” Linda Long, the Philadelphia Department's first female battalion chief, said.

“I am very happy to see her get promoted after all her hard work.”

Long graduated from the Philadelphia Fire Academy alongside Forrest. Forrest and Long's graduating class graduated more women than any previous class. Of the ten women who graduated, Long became the first female battalion chief, Donna Garrett became the first woman to be assigned to Rescue 1. Long said the women of her class "helped each other get through the tough days.”

“We learned and taught each other how to use our strengths as women to do some physical tasks."

After graduating from the academy, Forrest became the first Black woman to be promoted to captain in the department’s history. She is also the President of Club Valiants, a fraternal society Black and Latino firefighters. While Forrest is the first Black woman to take on many of these positions, she is not content to being the only woman to hold these positions.

“My real joy will come when the second one comes, that shows that it did not stop and start with me,” she said.

“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!”

Photo: Getty Images

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