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YFD's first female firefighter retiring
When Lynn Wojcik joined the Yuma Fire Department in 1990, there were about 50 firefighters – and not one was a woman.
There had never been one, until Wojcik, 24 years old and already with more than three years of service with the Rural/Metro Fire Department, came on board. On Jan. 3, 23 years to the day of her arrival, she will retire from the fire service, content with her accomplishments.
Wojcik was aware that she was a first, though she didn't want to think of herself as different.
“You just kind of accepted it and got into being a firefighter and not a woman in a fire department,” she said.
She said her career was filled with positives. When the young recruit crossed the finish line of the agility test course, former Chief Phil Cano and one-time Battalion Chief (and current San Luis Chief) Hank Green were there to shake her hand.
“That told me that the door was open, in that I would be accepted for who I was,” she said.
Wojcik came to Yuma from Tucson on a volleyball scholarship at Arizona Western College. She played for a year, hurt her ankle, and took time away from school, keeping busy with a job at Avis Rent A Car at the airport. After watching a friend getting treated by firefighter/medics after getting injured, and talking to some part-time Rural/Metro firefighters she knew, she went for a ridealong and ended up joining that agency (she wasn't the first woman there).
Another woman didn't join her on the front lines at YFD until about five years later. With her departure, there will be two women among the 100 or so firefighters. All around, the women throughout YFD are professional and hard-working, she said. She retires as the battalion chief of the training division.
She'll be spending more time with her supportive family, including her parents and her two sons, ages 12 and 14. She'll also continue work on her doctorate in fire and emergency management from Oklahoma State University. She already has bachelor's and master's degrees in fire management and administration from Arizona State. Her next goal is to teach.
Over time, emergency medical services have become more technical, she said. Fire suppression has moved toward using foam to smother flames, and firefighters now use a coordinated attack plan, which are better-planned strategies for a more orderly and safe fight.
Wojcik recalls being one of many firefighters to battle the blaze that destroyed the Dole plant in 1992, one of the first on the scene of the 1995 murders of two police officers by one of their own at the office of the Southwest Border Alliance drug task force, and the medic that delivered a baby girl in a bathtub.
She's not given to sentimentality, but satisfaction. She said she put everything into her work and moves on with no regrets. Rather than miss her job she looks back knowing she contributed, and cared for people during dark and stressful times.
“You have that pride that the service continues, the pride that you gave 23 years of your life to serving the Yuma community.”