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Philadelphia Promotes First Black Female Battalion Fire Chief In 149-Year History

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia has promoted its first Black female battalion fire chief. CBS3 spoke exclusively with the trailblazing firefighter for our Justice and Understanding series.

"It kind of feels weird because I've been a captain for seven years so to hear chief, because people have already started, but I'm like no, that's not me yet," Capt. Lisa Forrest said.

Capt. Forrest of Ladder 24 in West Philadelphia is now Battalion Chief Forrest. She is the first Black woman to hold that title in the department's history.

"The fire department has been in existence for 149 years so to hear that, it's not surprising and I'm going, to be honest, I didn't think that I would be the first," Forrest said.

lisa forrest

She says she fell into the career.

Her original plan was to be a nurse. She enlisted in the Army after high school and a year at Penn State University. She was discharged due to an injury and when she returned home, the first department was hiring. She says she only planned on staying for five years.

"I was going to do five years and leave," she said. "Five years and get my degree and leave the fire department, but I guess the joke was on me. So instead of leaving in five years, within five years, I was promoted to lieutenant and then I just kept going."

In her 16 years with the department, she was later promoted to captain and now battalion chief.

But before that, she earned the nickname "Lionheart" in the fire academy.

For a woman in a male-dominated field and who is only 4 feet 10 inches tall, she says the message to other young girls is to always give all that you have.

"Anything I've ever done in life, I try to be the best and so whatever a little girl is aspiring to be, just be your best,' Forrest said.

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