Women’s History Month: MCM Spotlights Trailblazing Firefighter Pamela J. Foltz

In honor of Women’s History Month, MCM is recognizing some of Montgomery County’s most notable women. Women who have driven change, fought for equality and provided representation for the many diverse parts of our community. Pamela J. Foltz paved the way for women in emergency response rolls as the first female career firefighter in Montgomery County.

Foltz, who grew up in Fairfax County, Va., began her career as a firefighter in the late 1970’s when she decided to drop out of college and start fire recruit school.

In 1979, Foltz completed recruit school, and was soon hired by the Glen Echo Fire Department, making her the first female career firefighter in the county, and one of only 25 in the nation. Today, there are over 6,000 women firefighters, but that is still less than ten percent of firefighters in the country.

When she first started, her station did not have any facilities, equipment, uniforms or grooming standards in place for women. There was no policy on maternity leave and only one locker room and sleeping quarters, which were used by the men.

Foltz helped Glen Echo and the rest of Montgomery County design female locker rooms and dormitories as well as safety equipment and regulations. Soon, other fire departments across the country would ask the county and Foltz for help and advice in introducing similar changes in order to adapt to the increase of women in the force.

Not long after starting at Glen Echo, Foltz transferred to Fire Station #1 in Silver Spring, where she would work until retirement in October 2011. During her career, she was hand-picked to help FEMA in fighting wildfires in Florida, and she also served as an instructor at the recruit training academy.

Pamela Foltz dedicated 32 years to her career as a firefighter in Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services, and she revolutionized the fire protection industry for women nationwide.

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Sam Merrill

About Sam Merrill

Intern at Montgomery Community Media, senior broadcast journalism major at the University of Maryland.

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