Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Trisha Wolford leaving to lead Maryland department

January 22, 2019

The first woman to serve as assistant fire chief for the Spokane Fire Department is leaving for a new job.

Trisha Wolford will soon become the chief of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department in Maryland.

Wolford, who was hired as Spokane’s assistant chief in December 2017, will be the first woman to be fire chief in Anne Arundel County.

Wolford said she spent the first 10 years of her career as a firefighter in Anne Arundel County. In her new position as chief of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, she will oversee about 900 career firefighters and 450 volunteers.

Before coming to Spokane, she served as the deputy fire chief at the Bozeman Fire Department in Montana.

Wolford said she hopes to show young women in the profession that they can make it in a male-dominated field. She said she is proud to be the first woman chief of the Maryland department, but emphasized that female firefighters work just as hard as their male colleagues.

“We’re not getting these jobs just because we’re women,” she said. “We’re getting them because we have grit and we worked hard and we’re smart.”

When she was hired in Spokane in 2017, she was one of 23 candidates and was selected over four other finalists for her position.

Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer called Wolford a “rising star,” saying he believes with her skill set, education and experience, she’ll likely go wherever she wants in the profession.

“I’m sad to see her go,” he said. “But everything about this move is the right thing for her and we’re certainly supportive of that.”

Schaeffer said he did not plan to fill Wolford’s position until voters weigh in on Proposition 1 on the Feb. 12 special election ballot. If voters approve the levy, the city will get the money needed to keep 30 of 48 additional firefighters hired through a federal grant. It also would pay to add 20 additional police officers to the city’s force.

The department’s grant, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, begins to expire in September though Mayor David Condon included enough money in the city’s budget to pay the firefighters hired through the grant until the end of the year.

Schaeffer said if the proposition doesn’t pass, he likely will leave the position vacant and use the salary savings to pay for two full-time firefighter positions. Wolford’s salary was $149,000 last year.