Fairfax Co. female firefighters make history

From left, Capt. Katja Lancing, Capt. Emily Murphy, and Capt. Felicia Barnes. (Courtesy Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department)

For the first time in the history of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia, the day-to-day operations of a fire station are being run entirely by women.

Capts. Felicia Barnes, Katja Lancing and Emily Murphy all work at Kingstowne Fire Station 37 on Telegraph Road. Each one is in charge of a different shift.

Lancing said when she was younger, the idea of becoming a firefighter never appealed to her until the day her grandmother’s heart stopped.

“The firefighters that showed up were tremendous, and I think that really changed my view,” she said.

Lancing is now in her 21st year as a firefighter.

“I really love helping people at their worst moment, and trying to make a positive difference in their lives. Every day is different; you never know what the day is going to entail,” she said.

Fire stations have separate locker and bunk rooms for men and women, but besides that, Lancing said male and female firefighters are treated the same.

“We’re expected to do the same physical tests as men, the same written tests,” she said.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Bill Delaney said about 11% or 12% of the county’s career firefighters are women.

Nationwide, only 4% of career firefighters are female, according to the most recent research by the National Fire Protection Association, which dates from 2018.

“We’re seeing more and more women joining the department, I think partially, because they see that they are accepting of women,” Lancing said. “You’re just part of the family.”

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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