Jeff Humphrey

Fighting Fires Before They Start

Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308

Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 12:04 p.m.

While most of us think fighting fires involves ladders and hoses, Spokane’s new assistant fire chief, Trisha Wolford, believes the best way to battle a blaze is to never let it get started.

“So fire investigation is really kind of the mystery behind what we do and really ties into how do we affect prevention. How do we warn our citizens? How do we educate our citizens about what’s best for the community?” Wolford wonders.

Serving the community is in Wolford’s blood. Born and raised in the Chicago area, the chief hails from a family of firefighters and police officers. 

“I was a little girl who spent my Sundays, after family dinner, running around the firehouse. So when you grow up with that, nobody ever told me I couldn’t and I decided this looks really cool. I want to do that too!” Wolford said of a career in firefighting.

Remarkably, in just a dozen years, Wolford has climbed the ranks in three departments and as Spokane’s new assistant chief, wants to facilitate the successes of her firefighters.

“If I were to look at my job and describe my what I do, I would say, getting people things so that they can do their job better and safer,” explained Wolford.

The chief is a self-described task-master but gets some of her most innovative ideas from fire crews in the field.

“So going around to the stations and saying hey! What do you think of this? Do you think it’s going to be a good idea? Do you think it’s going to work for everybody? And then, having the capability to tweak and alter, so I’m a doer, I like to be doing,” Wolford revealed.

And that includes staying in shape so the chief can be right there, in the middle of the action.

Wolford was on the Spokane Fire Department’s stair-climb team when the group raced up the Columbia Center in Seattle to benefit charity.

Wolford knows when fires knock elevators out of service, you have to be really good at climbing stairs.

“You can make the stairs with your stand pipe pack and your tools and your BA on. Then you’re talking about the second part which is very important. You make the stairs and you get up there in great time, now you’ve got to get somebody out,” Wolford said of rescuing people.

The chief became a commissioned police officer in Maryland when she was an arson investigator.

She says knowing how fires start and what allows them to grow can help save lives and property in the future.

“I really respect what investigators do because they provide answers and we all know being able to provide that peace of mind is really important. To be able to say, ‘o-k, that’s what happened. We’ll do better next time.’ And we’ll go ahead educate people on ways to prevent that,” Wolford predicted.

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