Meet the First Female Chief Fire Officer in Miami

She's in charge of five fire stations in the north end of Miami and also oversees the Miami Fire-Rescue's dive team and technical rescue team. But Melissa Llera is even more than that at Miami Fire-Rescue, she's the department's first female chief fire officer.

"I spent time as a firefighter and as a lieutenant and as a captain before getting to the rank of chief," Chief Fire Officer Llera said.

It's the highest rank ever held by any female in the history of the department.

"I always knew that it was possible one day, I just didn't think I would be the first one," Chief Fire Officer Llera said.

A department where, similar to the profession, women are largely under represented.

Currently, the agency has 749 firefighters and only 38 of them are women. That's less than six percent. Those are numbers the fire chief is working to get up.

"I've been on staff from one position or another since 1994, always seen this as a challenge and been chief since 2009. So now in a better position to do things about it," said Chief Maurice Kemp.

Chief Kemp said one thing he's done is make it a priority for the department to recruit more women.

All recruits for Miami Fire-Rescue train at a facility where another high ranking female is one of those in charge.

"If anything, I personally hold the female recruits in this academy to a higher level, knowing what it's like to be in this profession," said Capt. Dena Burton.

Capt. Burton knows all about the challenges female firefighters face. She said the greatest is physical.

"Because of their upper body strength, they have to work twice as hard for the physical complement," Capt. Burton said.

Of course, fighting fires isn't all physical. It requires bravery and a certain amount of selflessness.

If you spend time with Chief Fire Officer Llera, you would find out those qualities exist, but in addition, she's very humble. During our interview about her success as a woman, she took the spotlight off herself.

"There's been a lot of women before me. I thank them for what they had to live through. So they really paved the way for the women in the fire service today," she said.

When asked what it all means to her, she mentioned the children in her life, especially the 9-year-old, whose picture sits on her desk.

"My son is very proud of me. I've done countless school presentations for family and friends and I really do take pride in the fact that I'm showing these kids, especially the girls, that they can be firefighters some day and really be whatever they want," Chief Fire Officer Llera expressed.

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