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FunTimes Magazine

Captain Lisa Forrest

Captain Lisa Forrest may be small in stature, but over the course of her nearly 17-year career in the Philadelphia Fire Department, she has achieved some big accomplishments: Forrest is the first African-American female fire captain in the history of the Department. She is President, The Club Valiants, Inc., an association for Black Fire Fighters in Philadelphia.

Best and worst decision?
“The best: becoming a mother, and a role model for little girls. I’m 4″10′ and 108 pounds, so with my stature getting into the fire department, they can say, ‘if she can do it, I can too’. My daughter, (Ariel, 9), doesn’t have to look at a superstar for a model, there’s me. In her school journal, she listed me as her hero and she had never told me. I made a lot of mistakes in my life…but doubting myself, not exploring other options for a while was the worst.”

Dream job as a child?
“To be in the military or be a nurse. While in college studying nursing, I joined the Army ROTC, which took care of both of my dreams.”

Barrier to female leadership?
“Recognizing the glass ceiling and that you can break it. First firefighting was challenging enough, then I became a lieutenant. Then I went for captain. I know I have what it takes. You can’t talk about something that you’re not willing to do. A lot of women stop too soon. When you are a firefighter you have to face the fear of adversity, be in the right position, and be willing to make a change.” Who inspires you? “I come from a family of strong women — my mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins — so I didn’t have to look on TV. I’m a combination of them, with my strength and go-get-it attitude. I do have mentors outside my family who have helped me, like the late retired PGFD Deputy Fire Chief Carla D. Blue, second in command, Prince George Company. Our stories were similar: She faced being the first and the only. In her I saw hope for me. She tragically died in a car accident. She inspired me and I have emulated her.”

Challenge for next Generation?
“Women seeing their worth in the fire department. I am having a hard time with this new generation. Although I serve as an example, I can’t get them to move up in rank, or convince some, even, that they can join the fire department. They’ve been brainwashed it’s still a male job. I’m aspiring to be a Chief. I will not allow anybody to put limitations on me.”