HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The first Black female fire chief to serve any fire department in New England was sworn in Wednesday at the state capitol.
Shelly L. Carter worked her way up in the Hartford Fire Department, becoming its first Black female captain.
“After becoming a captain, I knew that I wanted to be a fire chief, and here we are today,” Carter said before the ceremony. “It’s kind of crazy.”
It is crazy that there has never been a Black female fire chief in New England. Carter now heads the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Fire Department.
“We know that representation from all backgrounds and perspectives is essential to creating institutions that reflect and value every member of all of our communities,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D-Conn.) said.
In addition to breaking barriers herself, since 2015, Carter has spent summers encouraging the next generation of female firefighters. Carter founded the Girls Future Firefighter Camp and teaches teen girls how to be firefighters and that they can be firefighters.
“In the fire service nationally, there’s only 4% female,” Carter said. “So, my goal is to empower young ladies to know they can be anything they want to be.”
One of the girls from the camp, Calley Thierfelder, a sophomore at New Milford High School, attended the swearing-in ceremony.
“Thank you for paving the way for the opportunities that lie ahead of me and for all you have empowered,” Thierfelder said. “Your selflessness and dedication to others is a goal I hope to achieve someday.”
While making chief has always been Carter’s goal, she also has another goal.
“We celebrate me, but this is for every female out there,” Carter said. “Every female on the line that’s working today. Every female that’s running a department across the country. I am the first Black woman fire chief in New England, but I will not be the last. That is my goal.”
The DDS Fire Department is based at the Southbury Training School, but Carter will have statewide responsibilities.