The Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) has included female members for a relatively short time over its long history, which stretches back to 1736. The first female dispatcher was hired in 1962, and the first female firefighters joined in 1985. But women have risen to the challenge and continue to distinguish themselves across the department. In recognition of Women’s History Month, here are a few women you should know in the PFD:
- Battalion Chief Anne Marie Lewandowski: Lewandowski joined the PFD in 1994 and became the department’s second female fire chief in 2018. She helped save a 2-year-old boy while responding to her very first structure fire, earning a Merit Award. Lewandowski now leads the Employee Relations Office.
- Capt. April Smallwood: As the PFD’s Infection Control Officer, Smallwood helps members protect themselves from infectious diseases that could be encountered on the job. Smallwood, a registered nurse, has been with the department for 19 years and previously worked in the field as a paramedic.
- Capt. Tabitha Boyle: As Deputy Director of EMS Training at the Fire Academy, Boyle helps to oversee both cadet classes and continuing medical education for the entire PFD. Boyle, a paramedic who holds a nursing degree, also works as a team nurse for a professional football organization and attends practices and all games.
- Capt. Stefanie Gorman: After spending nearly 13 years with PFD engine companies, Gorman recently became the first female Captain of the Marine Unit. From that position, Gorman helps oversee the PFD fire boats stationed on the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, and she’s looking forward to the arrival of our new fast boat named “Liberty” in the coming months.
- Lt. Tina Peterson: Now in her 16th year with the PFD, Peterson currently serves as the only female investigator in the Fire Marshal’s Office, which determines the cause and origin of fires. She joined the department with her brother and previously worked at an engine company, at the Fire Academy, and for the Fire Prevention and Recruitment units.
- Human Resources Manager Shauna Bracy: Bracy has served with the PFD since 2015. She is responsible for coordinating administrative functions that impact employment, such as staffing; policy development and compliance; employee and labor relations; and compensation and benefits. She is dedicated to ensuring a seamless employment relationship between the PFD and its more than 2,600 members.
- Paramedic Colleen Andrejczak: With 30 years on the job, Andrejczak is the Fire Department’s longest-tenured female paramedic and was part of the city’s first all-female ambulance crew from 1997 to 2001. A pair of shoes she wore as part of her PFD uniform have been donated to an upcoming exhibit at Temple University’s Shoe Museum called “Shoes of Those Who Serve.”
- Firefighter Donna Garrett (pictured): With certifications in high-angle rescue, trench collapse, structural collapse, swiftwater rescue, and confined space rescue, Garrett is the first woman to work at Rescue 1. Members assigned to this company undergo specialized training and respond to emergencies citywide. Garrett has been with the PFD since 2003 and has worked at Rescue 1 for about two years.
- Firefighter Karen McLaughlin: Because of her background as a personal trainer, McLaughlin was asked to join the staff of the Fire Academy to help recruits get into shape. After working as an instructor for Class 194, she became the coordinator of physical training for Class 195 – the first woman to serve in that role for a firefighter cadet class. McLaughlin joined the PFD in 2014 and previously worked at two engine companies.