When Queen Anunay was a young girl, she dreamt of making her family and community proud of her. Despite this, she had no idea that there was a time when she would go back to the line of fire. These days, she is busy keeping the city streets safe! Now the Battalion Chief Firefighter of a major city, she has become a true inspiration. She is one of three women to hold the position in the history of the department. How impressive is that? Let us get to know this amazing woman even better!
Why She Went Into This Field
As the youngest of eight kids, Anunay always heard, “We can’t afford college; if you want to go to college, you better get an academic or sports scholarship.” When she graduated from high school, she only had three options in front of her. She had to pick among the police department, the fire service, and the military!
She Had A Noble Goal
“I knew nothing about fighting fires, but when the fire department came down the street, there was respect; you knew they were coming to help,” she explained. “I was trying to make a better way for myself and help people, without [taking on] a lot of college debt.” In the end, she was able to attend college and finish a degree. The best part was that the fire department shouldered the cost!
Her Job As Deputy Fire Chief
But what exactly does a deputy fire chief do? “I’m responsible for ensuring the safety of first responders and making sure that we deliver quality customer service. On the scene, I’m in a command vehicle giving tactical instruction for the company officers that are in the fire. I position my vehicle where I have a three-sided view of the commanding ground. I’m talking back and forth to company officers,” she said. She gets to decide whether it is safe to put a line in and extinguish the fire.
Not Easy To Be A Woman
She admits that it can be difficult to be a woman in this position. “There haven’t been many chief officers before me who are women. So, when I walk into a fire station, [the firefighters] are a little reluctant to follow instruction,” Anunay explained. She continued, “They expect women to be timid. They expect women not to do a true analysis or take the risk that they need to take. So that’s carried with me wherever I am. I’m constantly proving myself. And I do that just by being competent.”
The Most Defining Moment Of Her Career
It is an important job that comes with a lot of responsibilities. When asked about her career’s most defining moment, Anunay shared that she had been doing it for 15 years when she became a paramedic. “It was the proudest moment of my life when I became a paramedic. I was able to be on the scene, and the one that puts in the EKG leads and administers medicine by IV to the patient,” she said.
She Set High Goals Early On
Anunay had certain goals that she wanted to accomplish. The ambitious woman shared, “I looked in the mirror once in the firehouse and said, ‘I’m at least going to retire from this department as a paramedic and a captain.’ And that’s where I set myself to start moving forward and going up the chain.”
When It Comes To Saving Lives
Not many jobs involve saving lives. She said that “it is humbling” to save a life. At the age of 19, she got a call from a high-rise building at three o’clock in the morning. “You could tell there was going to be a life lost in this fire. And I remember walking up and seeing all the smoke coming out and just kind of pause. My officer was like, “Let’s put the ladder up,” and then I saw someone holding a baby out of the window, and then I’m holding the baby—who’s still alive but burned over 80 percent of his body,” Anunay narrated. “I felt like I was delivering something powerful. I’m happy I got them out of the situation. But then I’m like, ‘What’s the end story for this baby?’”
It Was A Surreal Experience
She also talked about getting the chance to rescue a young man in front of his kids and wife. She said that he was a healthy guy who only experienced flu-like symptoms several days before going into cardiac arrest. “When I walked into that situation, the guy was on the floor unresponsive; his child is there, his wife; everybody’s frantic, and then I’m shocking him, and giving him medication, and then he comes out okay. That is a surreal feeling. When I first saw him, he was blue on the ground, and now he’s saying, ‘Thank you,’” she shared.
No Matter How Hard It Can Get
Anunay has said that it is not an easy job. Most of the time, nothing good is going on when a firefighter is called to the scene. It could be a sign that you lost a family member or that your house is burning. She knows that it is important to keep her cool. “We have to have that professionalism, that compassion, and we have to know how to make your situation better,” she said.
Fire Does Not Discriminate
“Fire doesn’t discriminate. And in training, as a woman, carrying hoses and a 50-pound breathing bottle on your back, you have to be physically prepared because once the fire hits, it’s taking out anything in its path,” she explained. You have to be at the top of your game since it is often a matter of life and death. It does not only have to do with your safety since you have to look out for the rest of the crew!
Her Words Of Wisdom
Does she have any word of advice for people trying to climb the ranks? “Be the pink elephant in the room and say the things that no one else is comfortable saying. That brings out what they really hire you to be,” Anunay advised. “The department knows they need diversity, but someone has to be bold enough to be who they are and not be afraid to be challenged.”
She Hopes To Change Things
The truth is that there are not many women in positions of power in the fire service. This is one of the things that Anunay wanted to change. “After being a firefighter, I realized that I needed to create the vision of a woman in a commanding position,” she expounded. “What motivates me is that there aren’t women seated at the table. I’m in a hurry to fill the seat.”
What Her Mentorship Program Is Like
She has launched a mentorship program to address this issue. “I empower young women through our mentorship program by putting them in the seat beside me. I have them shadow me. I’m constantly exposing them to something different, other than operations,” she said. Anunay also wants to show them that it is doable. She continued, “There is nothing extraordinary about what we do—it’s just passion. And you have to be focused, and you have to have discipline. I make them understand that you must be comfortable being uncomfortable.
How She Pushes America Forward
Anunay never forgets to include empowerment in her leadership style. If you ask us, more people should follow in her footsteps. She said, “Mentoring, reaching back and encouraging anyone coming from behind — being a that close friend [you need] to push you when you’re not able. I set the example and being present.”
Things Need To Change
The fire service needs to look at women differently, which Anunay knows better than anyone else. She is motivated to change these biases and stop stereotypes surrounding her gender. “So what powers me forward is making sure that the biases and the stereotyping have a challenging competitor or a person here that did a great job, not just because she was a woman, but because she studied the craft and she made it a happier place for women to do a great job,” she said. It is tough, but someone has to do it. She said, “We don’t have a seat at the table. I carry that burden on my shoulders to make sure that when we do get to the table, we’re viewed equally, and they expect us to do a good job.”