'I wanted to be the best teammate'; First woman appointed as fire chief in King County
AUBURN, Wash. - March is National Women's History Month, and Wednesday was monumental day in King County. The first woman has been appointed the title fire chief at Mountain View Fire & Rescue.
Dawn Judkins took her oath and was appointed as Mountain View's new fire chief.
Female fire chiefs aren't too common. Washington didn't have any women firefighters until 1977. Across the country, there are only around 50 female fire chiefs.
Most recently, Clark County Fire District 6 in Vancouver appointed a female fire chief in 2020.
Wednesday morning, bells echoed throughout Station 96 in Auburn, signifying a new and historical chapter for Mountain View Fire and Rescue.
"I just want everyone to know—girls, teenagers—that once you set your mind on something, you can do anything you want to do," said Chief Judkins. "It's an honor. It actually was a surprise that that was the case. I'm happy to be the first one. I hope that I am there for the next one, which will be soon."
In fire departments, the number of men largely tower over the number of women. That's slowly changing.
"When I first came on, there were about 10%," said Lt. Dinean Stayk with Tacoma Fire Department. "We are a very big fire department, got about 400 members. Currently, I think we've moved up to 14%, so we have a lot of women, compared to other departments."
"I always wanted to downplay that it wasn't a big deal," said Capt. Cathy Browning with Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority. "It matters that we can do our job well. It doesn't matter if we are a man or woman, but as I have grown older, and have just gained more experience in seeing the few women that are really in the grand scheme of certain departments, I do think it's monumental."
Chief Judkins said it's taken a lot to get to earn this title, and this is the pinnacle of her career.
"I wasn't trying to be the best female firefighter," Chief Judkins said. "I really wanted to be the best teammate for all of the folks that I worked with. With all their support, I got into the position that I am in."
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Chief Judkins said one of her goals is to continue best practices in the workplaces for firefighters, in hopes that they can sustain a long healthy life beyond retirement.