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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Davis Fire Department’s elects new Battalion Chief, Emily Lo

Lo is the first female Asian American Battalion Chief in the Davis Fire Department

By SOFIA BIREN — city@theaggie.org

Emily Lo, who has been working at the Davis Fire Department for 31 years, was promoted this year to Battalion Chief, making her the first female Asian American Battalion Chief in the City of Davis. She moved to the U.S. from Taiwan in 1981, and as a high school athlete, she liked basketball and any sport that involved a ball and running. It was her athleticism that led her to be a firefighter. 

She had just graduated high school and was at junior college when a friend had suggested she look into becoming a firefighter. He said it might be the perfect fit for her since she was already very athletic. She took an entry fire class at the community college she attended and has been involved in the fire service ever since. 

When asked about how she feels about her new position she makes it very clear that although she is the first female Asian American Battalion Chief in the City of Davis, she is not the first woman to hold that position. Rose Conrad, the first female Fire Chief in the State of California, was the one who promoted Lo to Captain and is still Lo’s mentor. Although Lo feels comfortable in her new position, she said she does feel some responsibility. 

“I am keenly aware of the position that I’m in,” Lo said. “My experience in the Davis Fire Department has only been positive, and although I am not the first woman to step in these shoes, I know that I am the first Asian woman in this position, and I don’t take that lightly.”

Lo’s impact on the Fire Department is widespread. Her subordinates feel comfortable joking around her, and she has a sense of humor with them as well. She says that working at the Fire Department is like having another family. 

“We call it our ‘fire family,’’’ Lo said. “We spend around a third of our lives with each other, so we know each other really well. They’ve seen my children grow up, and I see their children grow up.” 

Her dedication to service is evident when she’s around her “fire family.” At a training exercise she takes the role of spectator, but whenever any of the firefighters has a question she not only answers it but makes sure to do so with a sense of humor. She gives pointers as they are tying support lines around trees, she holds phones that are in danger of falling out of pockets and she makes sure her firefighters are on top of everything. She deliberately plans training exercises of scenarios that are not very common. She does this so the Fire Department does not fall behind on skills that can be forgotten if they are not practiced often.

Aside from being Battalion Chief, she is also the treasurer of the Davis Firefighters Union and is part of the Women’s Commission Mentoring Program, an organization that mentors aspiring female firefighters. 

Lo says that being a woman in the fire service is not anything special, nor should it be. She admits that being a woman in the fire service is a different experience, but she is very careful to express that although she was a woman that started her career in the ‘90s, she did not experience any specific hardships per se.

“I feel like it is very difficult to say that I was treated differently because I am a woman,” Lo said. “To loosely quote Elizabeth Warren, ‘If I said I didn’t win the primary because I’m a woman, people are going to say that I’m playing the victim, but if I say I was treated differently, then I’m going to upset the other 50% of the population.’” 

Lo’s impact is already evident in the city of Davis. 

“It’s really exciting to have women in such prestigious positions. It makes me feel like my hard work will pay off,” Ashlynn Jones, an aspiring firefighter in Davis, said.

Written by: Sofia Biren — city@theaggie.org


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