Female Washington, D.C. Battalion Chiefs Change the Face of Firefighting

Anunay and Clemencia are the only female battalion chiefs


Michelle Marsh, WJLA/ABC7, with permission

WASHINGTON (WJLA/ABC7) – In Washington D.C. there are 41 battalion fire chiefs and only two are women. Queen Anunay was promoted to the rank of battalion fire chief in 2018; Chief Kishia Clemencia promoted in 2019. Together, the pair are helping to change the face of the DC Fire and EMS Department.

Clemencia has been with the department for 28 years. She oversees one of the largest battalions. It covers the White House and several federal buildings. If there is a disaster, units from her battalion will respond. Anunay works to save lives before a fire starts. “I’m now in the assistant fire marshal’s office, this deals with the preventive part of public safety. This is a position where you’re using your mind, making sure every occupancy is safe,” Anunay explained.

Both women joined the department in the 1990s when women on the frontlines of firefighting were few. However, the number of female recruits has increased over the decades. According to recent DCFEMS employment records, women occupy 13% of positions. The department reports 1,884 fire service employees. “If you’re on backstep of fire truck and just starting your career and your chief pulls up and it’s a woman in charge that’s inspiring,” Anunay said. “We’re in the nation’s capital, look at the city, very diverse- so the department should be a reflection of the city or citizens we serve,” Clemencia added.

FDIC 2020: Women In Fire Conference

Battalion chiefs Anunay and Clemencia are helping to change the climate in what remains a male dominated profession. They cited two programs that are making inroads when it comes to recruitment and retention efforts. “We’re constantly recruiting. Our last recruitment effort yielded 24% applicants were women. I think that’s a huge tribute to our Empowering Women to Lead and Women’s Advisory Council,” Anunay described.

Empowering Women to Lead helps to increase opportunities for women within the department. It provides networking and education opportunities for women within the department. The Women’s Advisory Council introduces young women in the community to careers in fire service.

DCFEMS reports fiscal year 2018: 15 women joined the department as firefighter EMTs or firefighter paramedics. In 2019: 17 women joined in the same capacity.

“Fire does not identify gender. It destroys anything in its path. We have to be able to pull our own weight, do the job, team work together, we need each other woman or man,” Clemencia said.

Both women acknowledge the women who came before them including Bea Rudder.

Rudder was the first female firefighter hired in Washington D.C. She retired as deputy fire chief.

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