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Historic first: Fairfax County fire station run by three women

Three women fill top leadership roles at a fire station for the first time in the history of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department
Credit: Fairfax County Fire and Rescue
Left to Right: Captain Lancing, Captain Murphy and Captain Barnes

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Three women hold top leadership roles at a Fairfax County Fire station. It's the first time in the history of the department that three women have run the day-to-day operations at a fire station.

Captain Emily Murphy, Captain Katja Lancing and Captain Felicia Barnes work different shifts at Fire Station 37 in Kingstowne. Capt. Murphy, who works the A shift, came to the station two and a half years ago. Capt. Lancing, who works the B shift, arrived in 2020. Capt. Barnes was assigned to the station in May.

In an industry that is striving to acquire more diversity, especially in leadership roles, it signals progress.

Since they all work different shifts, they don't work directly with each other, but must work together as a team to keep the station operating efficiently. 

“We talk all the time. Communication is open and easy. We work well together and share information well,”Capt. Barnes said in a release.

Each of the three women bring different experiences to the station. Captains Murphy, Lancing and Barnes all praise their shifts for exemplary dedication and hard work. Dispersed over the three shifts are five additional female firefighters. The captains hope that seeing people break through barriers will inspire others to know they can do it too, and not just within the fire service.

All three of them recognize their success is due in part to mentors who helped them along the way to build confidence and trust themselves. Captain Murphy said it's something she won't soon forget.

“Many of my early mentors have retired,” said Captain Murphy. “I will never forget where I came from and the dedication and leadership they shared.”

The captains are also thankful for their families and friends who provided support. 

“I am grateful for the opportunities and challenges this job has offered. I appreciate working with and for great leaders”, Capt. Murphy said. “I also want to thank my family and close friends for their support over the years.”

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