Rochester Fire Department’s first female firefighter retires after 25+ years

The first RFD female firefighter is retiring after more than 25 years of service.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 4:55 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Until 1996, all of the members of the Rochester Fire Department were men, but that all changed when Jean Mulholland became the first female firefighter to join the department.

And now, more than 25 years later, she’s retiring.

“She knew her job. She was very competent. She loved to serve the community. She was a good person,” RFD firefighter Mandee Marx said.

Currently, there are five other women, including Marx, with RFD and one more woman on the department’s list of potential hires. But not all of the women work together directly.

“You’re definitely alone on an island sometimes being the fact that I don’t have another female to talk to,” Marx said.

“Almost like a brother-sister bond just because we work together, we are at the station 24-hours together and we have to train together and our lives depend on each other,” Marx said.

However, she has encountered some people in the public who doubt her ability to do her job.

“I’ve been in the community, and I’ve talked to people, and they’ve looked at me and been like, ‘You’re five foot how tall? You can do this job? Could you drag me out of a house?’ Yes, we are trained to do that, and we are never alone. We are always with another one of our firefighters, so I will do my best to do whatever I can to serve the community and to help anybody if they’re in need,” she said.

But those doubts further Marx’s desire to do her job and do it well.

“It makes me want to step up to the challenge more. It makes me excited to say I’m proud to say ‘Yes, I can do this job. Yes, I have.’ I’ve trained the same as all the gentlemen that are on this department. I’ve had to pass every test every male firefighter has had to pass to be on this department. So I’ve earned my way here,” she said.

Although Mulholland is no longer with the department, she leaves behind a legacy of trailblazing the way for female firefighters.

“She was an amazing woman and again I thank her for her services and for her paving the way for the rest of females here in the fire service,” Marx said.

RFD also has a program where they train high school students who want to learn more about the field. Eighteen female students have taken part in the program since it started in the 2019-2020 school year.

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