NOFD’S first female fire captain talks firefighting in her hometown

Linda Pailet.
Linda Pailet. Photo credit Courtesy of Sierra Beaulieu

Linda Pailet doesn’t fit the traditional image of a firefighter. Historically, that image has been of a man in firefighting gear.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, women make up only 9% of firefighters in the U.S. So, when she became a fire captain with the New Orleans Fire Department, it was a moment in the NOFD’s 132-year history because she was its first female fire captain.

Pailet is reluctant to talk about that or herself. She very much considers herself one of the “guys.” But even she realizes the rarity of women in such a field. As the nation observes Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look at a career that got a relatively late start and one that has taught Pailet so much about life, and in some cases, about death.

Pailet is now in her 20th year as a firefighter with the New Orleans Fire Department. Of those two decades of service, she has spent 13 years as a fire captain. Pailet didn’t join the fire department for the pay.
For a long time, the pay was low…criminally low if you ask the men and women who have risked their lives in various fire and emergency scenes. Pailet also didn’t join the NOFD because of some childhood dream of being a firefighter.

She actually wanted to be a race car or truck driver when she was a kid. It wasn’t until an event which forever changed the nation that Pailet decided entering a historically low paying and male dominated field would be her calling. Listen to the full conversation here.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sierra Beaulieu