100 Women We Love: Class Of 2019

Jeanine Nicholson

Photo by Jeanine Nicholson

Having studied anthropology at Colgate University, being a firefighter wasn’t a career Jeanine Nicholson initially imagined. But in May of this year, Nicholson became the first openly gay person and second woman to serve as fire chief of San Francisco. “I did not get into it until I was 29,” she says, “because I did not have the role models of women in the Fire and EMS services until I was an adult. It turned out to be a perfect fit for me.” Since joining the department as a firefighter EMT in 1994, Nicholson worked her way through the ranks on ambulances and fire engines through all neighborhoods of the city she calls home. “San Francisco is a very welcoming place and I am so lucky that I live here,” she says, noting that being out in this open city has not adversely affected her career opportunities. San Francisco is pretty lucky to have her, too. In addition to promoting firefighter safety and disaster preparedness, she is active in community outreach with programs like Camp Blaze, which teaches girls firefighting and leadership skills. The most rewarding aspect of her work, she says, is “making a difference in someone’s life on what might be the worst day of it. And I just plain love being of service.” —RK

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