Laura Shiloh made history yesterday when she was named the first female battalion chief in the 149-year history of the Baltimore Fire Department. While accepting the promotion, she praised the department and conceded that it has had its share of difficulties recently.
"I love my job. I love the department. I know it's been going through a lot of bad things lately, but I couldn't imagine working anywhere else," she said.
This summer, an independent investigation concluded that a fire recruit who was killed in a training exercise had been poorly trained and outfitted. A top commander and two supervisors were fired in the aftermath of Racheal M. Wilson's death in February.
Yesterday, fire officials praised the department's progress and Shiloh's contributions to the Emergency Medical Services division. Shiloh is one of three EMS battalion chiefs, the fifth-highest level of command in the department.
Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr. called Shiloh a "shining example of performance in our department." Goodwin and Mayor Sheila Dixon made the announcement yesterday morning at City Hall.
A 20-year veteran of the department, Shiloh is responsible for supervising the operational aspects of the EMS division, overseeing 22 full-time units and four part-time units. Shiloh, 43, will also coordinate activities for the department's Paramedic Bike Team and will serve on the Accident Review Board.
The position's high-level duties have been expanded. Previously, there were no battalion chiefs for emergency medical services. Goodwin said the EMS division has grown, necessitating the restructuring.
Fire officials said EMS handles about 80 percent of the calls to the department.
"It's so much of the Fire Department now. You don't see as many fires as you do medical calls," Shiloh said. "That kind of gave me the avenue to go higher."
Shiloh, a Baltimore native who attended the Institute of Notre Dame, lives in Harford County with her husband and two children.
In 2005, she was given the Frank T. Barranco Award, which recognizes leadership and performance in the EMS unit.
Shiloh entered the department as a paramedic in 1987 and was promoted 12 years later to EMS lieutenant. She advanced to district captain in 2003.
"It was a lot of proving myself, and I think I earned the respect of a lot of the men because I haven't really asked for a lot of help from them," she said.