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Tonya Boyd didn’t set out to make history 21 years ago when she joined the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services team as an EMT. Today, the former EMT is now Deputy Chief Tonya Boyd, the first Black woman to hold the rank in the FDNY’s history.

Boyd, who spoke exclusively with the New York Daily News, was named to her new post on Thursday (Nov. 1) with full recognition of how significant the moment was. The forty-something Brooklyn native and captain of Station 39 in the borough applied for the EMS job simply as a means to help her get through nursing school.

Boyd excelled in the role, was promoted to paramedic, and then to lieutenant. As the Daily News highlighted, EMT rank increases via exams, but the top-ranking FDNY positions are appointed by FDNY leadership.

The path Boyd walks today was forged in the ’80’s by the likes of Ella McNair, Rochelle “Rocky” Jones, and Tracy Lewis. Jones, now retired, was the first Black woman to be named battalion chief. She left FDNY in 2006 at the rank of captain. McNair was the first Black female firefighter named as lieutenant. The firefighting side of the FDNY named Lewis to lieutenant in 2014, becoming the second black female officer.

Boyd realizes she is now an inspiration for Black women and other women of color. She welcomes the challenge to help lead the FDNY as it looks to diversify its ranks in the coming years.


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