Toledo Fire Dept. swears in first female fire chief

Allison Armstrong is the new chief of the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department.
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 9:51 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2022 at 10:51 AM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Some Toledo history occurred Tuesday as Allison Armstrong became the first woman to head up the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department.

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz announced Armstrong would take the post last week.

It’s been just about 40 years since the city hired its first female firefighter and now Chief Armstrong is in charge of all of them. Her background in medicine impressed the mayor.

Everyone has their COVID stories. For Chief Armstrong she’s not only survived a bout with it but traveled to hospitals here, Mississippi and Texas to treat patients with it.

“It allows me to have empathy and understand what people are dealing with when they have this terrible disease and how it affects you not only physically but emotionally,” said Chief Armstrong.

Her next challenge is running a fire department of more than 530 people. Plus the changing dynamic of firefighters where it’s not all about burning buildings. Medical runs are now the majority.

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“We’re doing more and more work with less people. I’d really like to dig into the run volumes and see if there are some ways to reduce those unnecessary runs. Do public education,” said Chief Armstrong.

Chief Armstrong is the first woman to hold that post in city history. She’s a 21 year veteran, serving most recently as a battalion chief in the EMS bureau. She’s a licensed registered nurse and nationally registered EMT-paramedic. With the hope that more women will strive to achieve what she has, now that he work is front and center.

“It absolutely encourages them and gets them excited about a career in firefighting,” said Chief Armstrong.

Recruiting more firefighters is one of the chief’s top priorities. The entrance test used to attract thousands of applicants. Now those numbers are way down.

“We’re not getting those people to show up in the hiring. Recruiting and hiring in an ongoing process. We’re getting maybe a few hundred people. We’re having to work a lot harder to connect with those people,” said Chief Armstrong.

One tool she hopes to build on is PS419. That’s a program inside Toledo Public Schools where kids interested in public service are shepherded through the process. Already a few students have taken the test and goal is keep people invested in their neighborhoods here.

“Chief Armstrong was the best choice. She is experienced in all facets of operations and shows great leadership and management skills,” Mayor Kapszukiewicz said during a press conference. “She is unwavering in her dedication to the firefighters who serve our community every day despite the dangers they might face, and she is committed to building a diverse and inclusive department. I have faith in her courage and professionalism to lead our department, especially during these challenging times.”

The new chief comes after the retirement of former chief Brian Byrd who now serves as the city’s Safety Director.

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