March 27, 2020 Written by Kim Bradley
Today is our last blog post for 2911 Group’s celebration of National Women’s History Month. Over the last few weeks we have shared stories of three very diverse and inspiring women: Margaret Brent, Brionna Jones, and Deborah Birx. This week we are featuring another amazingly talented woman, Trisha Wolford. She is the first female fire chief in the history of the Anne Arundel County, Maryland Fire Department. As a nationally registered paramedic, police academy graduate, firefighter, emergency medical technician, and fire chief, Trisha’s entire career has been in the service of others. The community’s need for first responders has never been greater than during the current coronavirus pandemic, and we are grateful that role models like Trisha Wolford demonstrate their compassion and leadership every day.
Trisha Wolford was born in Rockford, Illinois, and as a child was interested in art and playing volleyball. However, she has said that she always knew she wanted to be a firefighter, as evidenced by her being photographed at the age of 2 or 3 inside a firefighter’s turnout boot at her uncle’s fire station. She credits her family with always supporting her desire to become a firefighter. They never told her that she couldn’t do it, so she never considered any reason why she shouldn’t join that male-dominated field.
She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2000 from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Nevertheless, after graduation, she applied to every fire department near her home in Maryland, following her dream to not only be a firefighter, but a fire chief. After years of hard work, she did just that. Trisha Wolford was officially sworn in as Fire Chief on January 28, 2019. She is the 12th Chief in the 54-year history of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, and the first female.
Trisha reached many milestones on her journey to becoming Fire Chief:
1. In 2006 she was selected from over 1,600 applicants as part of a class of 52 people, including only 7 other women, for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
2. She received her Paramedic Certification from Anne Arundel Community College in 2009.
3. She graduated from the Anne Arundel County Policy Academy and was sworn in as a law enforcement officer in 2012.
4. She is currently a Nationally Registered Paramedic.
5. She is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy as well as a recent graduate of the IAFC’s Fire Service Executive Development Institute.
6. She holds a CFO and CFM designation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence.
7. She is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs Human Relations Committee, Chair of the Professional Development Committee and Director-at-Large of the EFO Section Committee.
8. She was appointed the first female deputy fire chief of Bozeman, Montana’s 47-member fire department in 2015.
9. She was appointed the first female assistant fire chief of Spokane, Washington’s 340-member fire department in 2017.
She has stated that she loves the physical aspect of the job, including carrying the gear that can weigh between 50 and 70 pounds, depending on the emergency. She has excelled at the position’s physical fitness tests, and often runs 5 miles a day. However, she is not simply a tomboy working as a firefighter. In an interview conducted in 2018, she stated that she is “an avid heel wearer and collector. I think I have about 90 pairs. I keep them in numbered containers and have the photos on my iPad so I can scroll through and see which pair I want to wear when I’m not in uniform.”
Most important to Trisha is her ability to assist those in the community that she serves. Her empathy and passion to help others, in addition to her strong leadership skills, have enabled her to create an efficient and effective team that understands the needs of the community and is able to resolve issues and handle crises. She has often been called a “rising star” in the world of first responders, but she dismisses the idea that she’s been given certain opportunities because she is a woman: “We’re not getting these jobs just because we’re women,” she said. “We’re getting them because we have grit and we worked hard and we’re smart.”
Trisha’s grit and intelligence are being put to use as her team of first responders are called on to care for those diagnosed with COVID-19. See her recent message to the community below:
Trisha Wolford serves as a perfect example of what any woman can achieve with a strong desire and corresponding work ethic. Throughout her career she has not allowed others’ expectations to limit her or restrict her ability to reach her goals. In that regard she embodies everything that 2911 Group desires for all of you – to believe in yourselves and understand that as long as you believe, there are no limits to what you can accomplish!