Female Raleigh fire captain seeks to inspire girls, young women

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A Raleigh firefighter is making history for what she’s accomplished on the job.

Dena Ali just became the first woman to reach the rank of captain in two decades. Now, she hopes she’ll inspire others.


This was a job she didn’t even consider after college because she didn’t see any other women doing it.

But now, she hopes that’s changing.

For years, Ali has been driving a fire truck to all kinds of emergencies in Raleigh.

Now, she’s taking on even more.

“Now, you have the ultimate responsibility for an entire crew of people, for the decisions that are made on the call,” Ali said.

Last week, she was promoted to captain, a notable achievement not just because of the work that goes into it, but also because she’s the first woman in the job in 20 years.

“One of the lieutenants who was promoted, his daughter was there. And she pointed at me and said, ‘Daddy, girls can do it too. I want to do it.’ And it was kind of neat to realize that you are that person that can inspire somebody else,” Ali said.

During the promotional ceremony, she posed with the city’s other female firefighters.

“When I first joined, the Raleigh Fire Department was three percent female. And in the almost 10 years I’ve been here, that number is over five percent,” she said.

Before joining the department she spent several years as a police officer — another male-dominated profession.

But, she hopes girls and young women see her and realize this is possible for them too.

“You know, there’ll be another girl sitting in high school, wanting a career where she can be active, be out in the public and see me and say, ‘Hey, I can do that.’ It’s exciting, and I enjoy it,” Ali said.

In addition to the studying she Ali had to do to earn the new job, Capt. Ali is also in grad school working to get a degree in public administration.

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