PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Two women in the Philadelphia Fire Department shattered another glass ceiling today, making history as they became the “firsts” to fill their high-ranking positions.
With right hand raised and oath administered, two Philadelphia women are officially the first to rise to their ranks in the city’s fire department.READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force To Announce Teacher Vaccination Initiative
“I feel very lucky to be where I am today,” says Linda Long, who was promoted from captain to fire battalion chief.
Long began her career as a paramedic, rising to captain. Then at 39 years old, she quit and started over in the Philadelphia Firefighter Academy.
“I became a firefighter, a firefighter lieutenant and then firefighter captain,” she says.
The grandmother is the first man or woman to ever rise the ranks as both a paramedic and a firefighter, but her love for the department began as a child with her love for fire trucks. It continued over the years because of her love for saving lives.
“I really like helping people,” she says, “and I love Philadelphia, and it’s just a feeling of accomplishment just being out there being able to be there for people at their worst moment.”
Long’s success in the department helped fuel the success of Crystal Yates, who was promoted from paramedics captain to paramedics services chief. Yates, a mother of two, is the first African American woman to hold the post. But Yates spent her early years at the fire department. Her father, who is now retired, joined the department in the 1970s when it was all male.
“It’s not something I saw women do,” says Yates, “so I never thought of doing it.”READ MORE: Brotherly Love: Northeast Philadelphia Man, Family Bringing Joy To Hundreds Of Children Through Bikes
In 1985, Lt. Diane Mercer became one of the first three women to join the department. In the late 1990s, Yates’ father told her about an opportunity to become a paramedic. She joined and never looked back.
“I love serving the public,” she says. “I am no longer in the field serving patients, but that was my favorite part of the job.”
Yates attributes her success to other women and men in the department who mentored her.
“I stand on the shoulders of giants,” she says, “and hopefully my shoulders will be strong enough to support others.”
“This is a great harbinger of our success, but we have a lot of work to do,” says Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel. “But it’s not easy.”
Thiel says the department is working hard to recruit women, but many women and men do not see fire fighting as a career option. He says they are working to change that.
“We don’t help with the language we use,” he says. “We talk about firefighters and chief officers and battalion chiefs.”MORE NEWS: 3 Men Wanted For Stealing ATM From Convenience Store In Brewerytown, Philadelphia Police Say
Thiel says he hopes more people view public safety jobs as an option. The formal celebration of the latest round of fire department promotions will take place on June 27.