Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NEW HEIGHTS TO CLIMB; She's the City's First Woman to Serve as Combat Captain Firefighter Tammi Reyes, Highest Ranking Female in the Department's History, Still Has Goals to Reach

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NEW HEIGHTS TO CLIMB; She's the City's First Woman to Serve as Combat Captain Firefighter Tammi Reyes, Highest Ranking Female in the Department's History, Still Has Goals to Reach

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE BLACK

Tammi Reyes barely needs two hands to count the number of women working as firefighters with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department when she was first hired.

They were scattered throughout the different fire stations. Few made it into high positions.

But, 10 years later, as the number of women in the 1,000-plus member department has climbed to about 50 and those in leadership positions number around 10, Reyes has worked herself up through the ranks to become the department's first female combat captain.

The promotion, in March, makes her the highest ranking woman in the department's history. But that's not a distinction she plans to rest on.

"It shows that if you love what you're doing and work hard, you can keep moving up," Reyes said. "I never thought I'd get this high, not because I'm a woman, but because there are so many amazing people who work here."

She added: "Yeah, I'm a woman, but I got where I'm at because I worked hard on this job just like all the guys."

Fire Chief Richard Barrett called Reyes an asset to the department and said her promotion shows diversity growth there.

"It's exciting to see more diversity in the department," he said. "The department is very proud of Tammi and her accomplishments."

In her new post, she'll run the daily operations of a station. That includes overseeing three shifts of firefighters and directing their efforts. But her favorite part, she said, is that she'll still be able to battle fires and won't have to move to a desk job.

Reyes, 40, began working as a firefighter after graduating from the academy in 1990.

She said she always had a desire to help people and considered careers in nursing or police. But, in the end, only fighting fires added enough of an adrenaline rush to pique her interest.

Her first job out of the academy was with Clay County's Fire and Rescue Department. She spent a few days on the job before she tackled her first blaze -- a house fire. …

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