Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. --
Firefighter and Fire Prevention Inspector Brandee Ridgway made history March 1, 2020, with her promotion to assistant chief of Fire Prevention, Cherry Point Fire and Emergency Services. Ridgway is the first female to hold the title of assistant chief within a Fire Department at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.
“Growing up I always knew that I wanted to be in some aspect of public service,” said Ridgway. “And life led me to staying in the Fire Department. Once hired into a federal firefighting position, at just 20 years old, I can remember telling the assistant chief of training at the time that my aspirations were to be in his position in 10 years. Well, one thing led to another and it took longer than I had originally anticipated, but I have finally found a place that I feel I am meant to be.”
Ridgway started serving at the Cherry Point Fire Department in July 2003 in a temporary position as a firefighter. After a year, that position was renewed and then became permanent. Ridgway served as a firefighter until 2008 when she switched to the Fire Prevention Division.
“I never considered the Prevention Division until my husband and I decided to start a family, but I’m glad it happened that way,” said Ridgway. “The schedule for the fire inspectors was more conducive to having a family with both parents in the fire service. I have remained in the Fire Prevention field, working as a fire inspector and firefighter since then, still working one night a week as a firefighter.”
As assistant chief of Fire Prevention, Ridgway’s responsibilities extend from fire inspections and responding to emergencies to directing and managing her department. It also includes ensuring the department’s financial health, with emphasis on the expectations of critical thinking and setting the example for her personnel whom she has been charged to lead, protect, and prepare for what the community and fire chief expect of them.
“I feel being one of the only females in the fire department gives me a unique perspective,” said Ridgway. “I have been in the fire service my entire adult life, so I have learned how to navigate difficulties and situations that may arise. At first, it was challenging trying to learn everything, trying to find a place to fit in. I hope to leave an inspirational legacy, one that I can look back on and be proud of the direction that this division has taken in securing and enforcing fire safety on the air station.”
Ridgway is one of five assistant chiefs within the department, and has stamped her story in the Cherry Point history books as the first female since their establishment nearly 80 years ago.
“I am honored that the hard work that I have put into my entire career has led to this path, and paved the way for me to be able to lead a division within the fire department,” said Ridgway. “I feel like I am in a position to make a difference, to lead, to help, to change for the better and to enrich our fire department as a whole.”
As Ridgway begins living her decade-long dream, her advice to those with ambitions toward management would be to serve through adversity, and remember why they aspired to reach those goals in the first place.
“I would tell them to never stop learning. Education is key, and once you think you know it all or have seen everything, something new happens and leaves you unprepared,” said Ridgway. “I would tell them that if this job is truly a dream of theirs, then stick with it. Every day is different, every supervisor is different, and every station atmosphere and crew are different. If there is something that you’re having a hard time with, seek advice and make any necessary changes, but never give up on your dream.”