AFR Chief Emily Jaramillo talks career, breaking barriers

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Fire Rescue’s new chief is breaking through in a male-dominated world and hopes to open the door for others.

It’s all because, well, firefighting is often thought of as a male-dominated profession. The nonprofit Women in Fire even says less than 5% of all career firefighters are women.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue had its first female firefighter on the force in the 1970s. Now, years later, AFR finally swore in a female fire chief.

That happened earlier this month as AFR swore in Emily Jaramillo as chief. Jaramillo graduated from the fire academy’s 71st class, back in 2005.

She is one of three women that made it through that class.

Before becoming a firefighter, it wasn’t even a thought for Jaramillo.

“I actually got my degree in education in English, a long time ago. I was teaching at the juvenile detention here in Albuquerque and I was an English teacher there,” she said.

After teaching for a few years, Jaramillo says she was hoping for a career change. However, a guest speaker in her classroom really sparked her interest.

“He was in the fire marshal’s office. He came to talk to my students and he was talking about the career,” she explained. “It just sounded like something I would like. I actually took his business card even though he was there for the students.”

After 18 years and several positions within AFR, Emily Jaramillo made history. She’s now the first woman to lead the state’s largest fire rescue department.

Jaramillo’s photo will join those other chiefs from the department’s 123-year history. She hopes her appointment will spark change.

“That’s where representation is really important. If you never see a female firefighter growing up or any profession, a doctor or a pilot or any of these career fields that we may associate being typically male, for little girls it’s like you don’t even consider that to be a career and it stays with you,” Jaramillo stated.

Among Emily Jaramillo’s goals as chief is to make sure people from underrepresented groups are heard loud and clear. Chief Jaramillo also wants to improve recruiting to include not only more women but also a more diverse group of people.