Hear from the first African American female firefighter in Fairfax County

Virginia

As we celebrate Black History Month across the nation, local residents are honoring individuals who are making history in the African American community today. 

Felecia Manns was the first African American female firefighter for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. She graduated in the 67th recruit class in 1986. Manns said her career was inspired by friends who were firefighters back when she didn’t see anyone who looked like her in uniform.

“When I was around my friends they always encouraged me and so they started teaching me knots and ropes and stuff like that so I blew through all that stuff in recruit school because I had learned it from my friends,” she said. 

Being the first African American woman to graduate and become a firefighter for the department came with many challenges. 

“With my uniform and my gear on people would call me sir because they expected that I was a male and then when they heard my voice and saw I was a female that was always a shock,” Manns said.  

“It only took me about 2-3 weeks on the job when I realized ‘they don’t treat me like everybody else why is that?’ during that time some people tried to say it’s the culture of the fire service, you’ve got to learn to get along with us,” she added.  

Since beginning her career, she’s worked as a medic, a hazmat team member and a lieutenant. She served 30 years before retiring as Captain in 2015. 

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