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Ginny Cranor Will Become First Female Pensacola Fire Chief

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Twenty years after first putting on the bunker gear of the Pensacola Fire Department, Ginny Cranor is set to make history.

Cranor is up for promotion from her current rank as Battalion Chief, to becoming the first woman fire chief in the department’s 208 year history.

“I feel very honored to be the first female that’s been chosen to do this,” said Cranor.

Her career in the fire services began after training as an emergency medical technician in 1993. She earned a nursing degree from the University of West Florida in 2012.

“[I] began volunteering in Escambia County [Fire-Rescue] to get experience as an EMT, and just fell in love with the fire service and totally changed my career plans,” Cranor said. “I continued volunteering and in 1998 I decided to make it a career and came to the city.”

Cranor and four other women have served with the Fire Department for a number of years. But it’s been 12 years since a female has been hired as a firefighter. The incoming chief says that’s changing.

“When I was promoted to Lieutenant I was promoted with another one of our female firefighters,” said Cranor. “And then to Captain with Annie Bloxson and then to Battalion Chief, again with Annie Bloxson. She’s our Fire Marshal now. So we now currently have two female fire cadets, bringing the total of females here up to seven, who will graduate in two months.”

Cranor succeeds Chief David Allen, who has held the job for the past two years and is retiring next month after three decades with the Fire Department. She acknowledges the department’s legacy, going all the way back to the Spanish in 1810, and then to Chief John Baker 120 years ago.

“They had volunteer hose companies that worked together in groups all around the city, and were organized in 1898,” Cranor said. “This fire department has gone from the horses, to our first steam engine in the 1920s, to having two brand-new, state-of-the-art fire engines that will come in this month.”

“She’s a winner and she’s very highly respected in the [Fire] Department and she’s respected among her peers in City Hall,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, who nominated Cranor from among five candidates submitted by Chief Allen.

“They were all great candidates; it was just about her leadership skills,” said the Mayor. “Her energy, her passion for the community. But most importantly she understood where we were going as a community in the  twenty-first century and where we’ve been.”

Following controversies a couple of years ago that saw the departure of the fire chief and assistant chief, Hayward believes the department’s been moving in the right direction since then, and that Cranor can continue that movement.

“Her intellect and where she wants to go; and what she wants to do in the department,” said Hayward. “And most importantly being a selfless servant. We all work for the taxpayers and Ginny understands that; and it’s all about great customer service, and obviously protecting our citizens.”

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Pensacola Fire Chief David Allen retires in April.

As she prepares to take over the Fire Department, Cranor is also wrapping up her 18-year stint as an instructor at the Fire Academy, turning over those duties to what she calls “a young group of aggressive men and women.” She says part of that training involves the priorities that firefighters must have.

“Firefighter safety, and understanding that we’re not just a fire department, we’re a fire service,” said Cranor. “We have to have a ‘servant-leadership’ mentality when it comes to our dealings with each other and then also in the community.”

When she takes over next month, incoming Chief Ginny Cranor says job one will be continuing the momentum that’s already underway.

“Our crews are doing a fantastic job right now’ so, [I’m] not coming in to make any major changes,” Cranor said. “But we want to be able to meet any increasing threats that there are – disaster planning. And then also the service-minded aspect of it: our smoke alarm programs, car seat programs.”

The Pensacola City Council will vote April 12 on Cranor’s nomination to lead the department's staff of 123 firefighters and administrative personnel. That vote is expected to be in her favor.