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First black female firefighter in Jacksonville talks about determination

by: Brittany Jones Updated:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Station 2 is Glenda Hopkins’ old stomping grounds. More than 30 years ago, her picture was printed in the newspaper when she was named the first female firefighter.

“This is the bottom, you climb to the top,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins was determined to climb her way to the top.

“I wasn't going to let anybody take that away from me,” she said.

She said the dream to be a firefighter started at 8 years old. She accomplished that goal by the age of 26.


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“The work itself was really hard, you had to lift ladders, pull hoses and break doors and windows open,” she said.

Hopkins spent 27-and-a-half years as a firefighter. But beyond the tough physical activity was even more of a struggle. Hopkins was the first female in the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and the first black woman to do the job.

“There are still people today who don't want to accept African-American women and women in fire services,” she said.

But Hopkins said it was her calling to serve the community and do what it takes.

“I always felt like I belonged here, tested for the job, obtained the certification just like every other male,” she said.

Some didn't believe she was a real firefighter.

“They wanted to know if I was playing dress-up,” she said.

But she changed the game and JFRD said right now, more than 20 women are suiting up as firefighters. Now, Hopkins said she'd like to see even more women join.

“Whenever I see one, it makes me really happy,” she said.

Hopkins said she's been retired for 14 years and is enjoying it.


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