Danelle England-dansicker

Baltimore County's First Career Female Firefighter Was Promoted To Division Chief In 2001

April 24, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Danelle England-Dansicker, Baltimore County's first career female firefighter, died Tuesday of complications from autoimmune disease at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 52.

"She blazed a trail for a lot of people," said Baltimore County Fire Chief John Hohman. "She earned the respect of those you would have never expected to accept a woman. She made it easier for us to diversify this department."

Anida Danelle England was born in Baltimore and raised on Milford Mill Road. She was a member of a family of firefighters and fire volunteers. Her great-grandfather had been a volunteer in a Forest Park company. He grew up listening to a fire radio in the living room. Her mother and grandmother were fire coffee wagon volunteers.

"My grandfather used to take me around with him to check fire hydrants and maps for the department," she said in a 1978 Evening Sun article published after her graduation from the Baltimore County Fire Academy in Towson.

A 1974 Seton High School graduate, she initially thought of becoming a special-education teacher and enrolled at what is now Towson University.

She began breaking gender barriers when she joined the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Department in 1976. She was its first female member, and its old membership rules - "any male within a five-mile radius" - had to be rewritten to allow her into the unit.

She also met her future husband, Samuel Dansicker, then a lieutenant in the Pikesville ambulance service.

She went on to join the Baltimore County Fire Department on July 15, 1978.

"If my mother hadn't grown up in the time that she did, she probably would have been a firefighter, too," she said in a 1995 Sun article. "My mother realized she could never be a firefighter when she was 10 years old. I never had to deal with that, so I decided that I really liked the idea of being a firefighter, and went for it."

Her family, she said, chose firefighting "because we love our jobs. I really had to prove to people that I was genuinely interested in firefighting as a career. Once people understood that, they were very supportive."

She was an apparatus driver, a cardiac rescue technician and a member of the high-rise evacuation team that rappelled out of helicopters to rescue people trapped on tall buildings. Departmental officials said she was known for enjoying challenging rescues.

"Early in her career she had to overcome obstacles," said Allen Roody, a friend of 30 years and a lieutenant in the Pikesville department. "She was to women in fire service what Jackie Robinson was to athletes of color."

That determination paid off in 1984, when she was promoted to lieutenant, and five years later, when she made captain.

She was named a battalion chief in 1995 and a division chief in 2001. She retired in 2005. Fire officials said Thursday that she is the only woman in the Baltimore County Fire Department to be promoted beyond the rank of captain.

She enjoyed gardening and was president of the Pikesville Garden Club at her death. She also assisted the unemployed with resumes as part of a Catholic Charities jobs placement program.

She promoted firefighting as a woman's career at high schools and colleges, groups for displaced homemakers and other career programs.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at noon Saturday at St. Charles Boromeo Roman Catholic Church, 101 Church Lane, Pikesville.

Survivors include her husband of nearly 30 years; two daughters, Gabrielle Dansicker of Baltimore and Alexandra Dansicker of Pikesville; a brother, William England Jr. of Owings Mills; her mother, Anida England of Pikesville; and her grandmother, Wilso Holden, also of Pikesville.

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