Leading the way: Phoenix's first female fire chief

- Kara Kalkbrenner became the city's first female fire chief when she took over in 2014.

Together, she and Police Chief Jeri Williams make Phoenix the largest city in the nation to have a woman leading the police and fire departments.

Two years ago, Kalkbrenner stepped into shoes that no woman has filled -- actually, she stepped into the fire boots of the Chief of Phoenix Fire Department.

She was 19 when she joined the PFD and was also one of the few female firefighters back then.

"..there wasn't a lot of women when I came on the job and we wanted to be included, we wanted to be a part of the team," said Kalkbrenner.

Now she is the team leader of 58 fire stations in Phoenix. More than 400 firefighters are on duty every day.

"I don't look at my leadership style any different than any other person, but what I do bring to the table is it's me.. only I can bring to the table what I have.. 32 years experience, a commitment to public service, love my community, I'm a native Phoenician.

Kalkbrenner hasn't fought fires in many years. She does still fight stereotypes, but says those battles only made her stronger.

"It's always made me better. It's personally, professionally.. I work hard because sometimes you have to overcome.. stereotypes people may have had," she said.

The chief says she is honored to inspire young people, boys and girls, to pursue this career -- a career that she has found so fulfilling.

"People are running away from danger. We're running into it, so we want people to have the mental toughness, the physical strength to do it, but also have that desire to truly reach out and help our community."

I asked the chief if there is anything she wants to stress. Not surprisingly, she takes the chance to push safety, safety and safety in the community.

"Christmas tree fires are going to start happening again because they've been cut for a while, so make sure your trees have water in the wells, that your Christmas tree lights are for indoor light trees and that you turn them off at night, that your smoke alarms.. you test them monthly and you change the batteries if you haven't gotten a 10-year one."

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