For the past 30 years, Daphne Tyus has been the only black female in Cleveland’s Fire Department. The City of Cleveland hasn’t hired a female firefighter since 1989. There are only three women among the more than 700 firefighters, who work diligently for the city.
As the only black woman out of the three women in the department, Tyus who just retired joined the department in 1987. She described her journey with the CFD as a long and difficult road.
“When I got that particular accolade, I said ‘I can do this job’” I could do it because they didn’t think I could,” Tyus said in an interview.
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“You’re already in an environment that’s put upon you: ‘You can’t do what I do’,” Tyus said. “So you have to push three, four times harder. You have to make it happen with all that’s within you. And to our surprise, it happens.”
“The first few years of my career were probably the worst ever. I have been locked out of my room. I’ve been called out of my name while at a fire, called [derogatory names]”.
She said she held on to her father’s words: “Don’t leave when it’s bad. You got to get over the hurdle because something better’s coming.”
When she joined the CFD, according to her, it was rare to see women doing that job at the time. “You’d never seen a female on the job; however, there are many females across the United States as of today,” she noted.
Daphne Tyus served in the fire education department teaching fire safety during events and festivals. With 30 years of service, she supervised two fire-safety trailers — mobile houses that simulate fire and give residents a chance to practice escape strategies.
Tyus received many honours during her career and was featured, along with the other two female firefighters on the cover of Cleveland Magazine in 2018. She retired last Friday leaving only two women in a department of over 700 firefighters.
According to Cleveland’s only black female firefighter, she loves reaching out to the community, especially talking to students so she plans to continue her work by training aspiring female firefighters.