NEW YORK, NY — (05-22-20) — The New York City Fire Department made history on Thursday when it announced its first Lesbian battalion Chief. Not only is Capt. Michele Fitzsimmons make history as the first ever Lesbian battalion chief for the New York City Fire Department, but she is also the second woman to be promoted to such a position in the department.
Michele Fitzsimmons, a 19-year veteran of the New York city fire department, was promoted in a ceremony at the city’s Fire Academy.
The event also promoted social distancing rules as Capt. Fitzsimmons was seen wearing a surgical mask. However her wife DiAnna stayed in the car during the ceremony due to the limit on people allowed in for the ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No friends or family members were admitted for the ceremony.
Fitzsimmons follows FDNY’s first female battalion chief was Rochelle “Rocky” Jones, who was promoted to battalion chief in 2003 and retired in 2011.
“I was able to prove that I was capable of doing the job, which went a long way when it came to being accepted,” said Fitzsimmons of her career at the ceremony. “There was always a reaction when someone had to work with a woman, but now there are a lot more women, so that doesn’t happen anymore. It used to be a big thing,” she added. “I would be stopped on the street by people who said they had never seen a lady firefighter before.” said Fitzsimmons.
The Daily News reported…”Before her promotion, Capt. Fitzsimmons was commander of the Ladder 12 company in the Chelsea neighborhood. She is a past president of FireFLAG, the FDNY’s LGBTQ+ organization, and worked at the HIV service organization GMHC for eight years, the last three as coordinator of its Lesbian AIDS Project, before joining the fire department.
She is a co-founder of Phoenix Firecamp, which introduces teenage girls to careers in firefighting. She has been an instructor at FDNY’s Probationary Firefighter School and is a graduate of the FDNY Officers Management Institute, which is run by Columbia Business School Executive Education.
Fitzsimmons said Jones “laid out some great tracks for me to follow and for me to have this opportunity.” Her own promotion, she added, “shows that if you put your mind to something and work really hard and put the time in, you can achieve anything. And the department has supported me and enabled me to achieve that.”
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro praised Fitzsimmons, issuing the following statement: “Michele is an accomplished person, an outstanding fire officer, and a role model for so many women and men in the department.”
Photo courtesy of Debbie Egan-Chin-New York Daily News
Article by: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer
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