Watch CBS News

First Latina to join Baltimore's Fire Department uses identity to her strength: "It's what sets me apart"

First Latina to join Baltimore's Fire Department uses identity to her strength: "It's what sets me a
First Latina to join Baltimore's Fire Department uses identity to her strength: "It's what sets me a 01:18

In honor of Women's History Month, WJZ is highlighting our local women trailblazers. 

BALTIMORE -- There are not many women of color who step into the role of firefighter. To help attain more diversity, the Baltimore City Fire Department created a high school program several years ago. 

That's where Magali Uroza was inspired to start her career as an EMT/firefighter.

Back in 2018, Uroza became the first Latina to join the Baltimore City Fire Department at just 19 years old.

"It was crazy to me," Uroza said. "When I was halfway into the academy, they told me this. I was like, 'Oh my god. This is a lot of pressure now. I feel like I have to graduate now and pass everything.' But it's a great title to hold and I hope I inspire a lot of Latinas to come join. Or Latinos, because we need more of those too."

Uroza remembers hearing words of encouragement from her fellow Latino comrade in the academy, Kenneth "Kenny" Lacayo.

She now holds his memory close to her heart.

Lacayo died in January 2022, along with two other firefighters, while trying to tackle a vacant rowhome fire on South Stricker Street.

"He was great," Uroza said. "He would say, 'you got this. You're going to be able to help everyone.'"

According to the city's 2023 Equity report, there are 15 sworn Latino members on the EMS and Suppression teams in the department, but only three are Latinas.

"I think you need to show them what you are about," she said. "That you can do it too. I also grew up with two younger brothers, so I was already surrounded by men. So I can wrangle," she laughed.

Originally, Uroza thought her calling was to be a nurse. But she was inspired by a firefighter paramedic who stepped into her high school classroom at Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy.

She comes from a Mexican immigrant family and remembers the challenges of learning English while growing up in Baltimore.

"Sometimes I broke down and cried," she said. "I was picked on. But now, it's what sets me apart."

Uroza uses her Spanish-speaking skills to aid victims who often go unheard. She even travels with victims to the hospital to help translate to nurses.

"It's just amazing to be able to help our people when we can," she said. "When I go to a call and they just look at me they just [gasp and say] 'she can help me, she understands me.' It's a great feeling."

Uroza now looks forward to the next generation of heroes and hopes that her path will inspire them to overcome any doubt.

"Whatever you think you can't do, you can do it," she said. "Just give it a try. If you fail, you fail. But just get up and do it again."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.