DELAND, Fla. — 24-year-old Dejah Woods will make history when she begins her first shift as a firefighter in DeLand Thursday.
At that moment, Woods will officially become the city’s first ever black female firefighter.
Of the 49 firefighters in the department, Woods is one of just three women, and four minorities.
Woods says she’s always wanted to serve her community.
“Not only am I excited about it, you know, I’ve got the courage to want to go into a burning building and save whoever is in there,” Woods says. “I want to be the best fireman I can be.”
Nationally, about 4% of firefighters are women, and just over 8% are black, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.
DeLand Fire Department Chief Todd Allen says they’re actively working to recruit more women and minorities through social media, college recruitment, and working with community leaders.
Allen’s own wife was a firefighter and knows the impact seeing a familiar face suiting up can have.
“She always talked about how the little girl’s eyes would light up when they come to the schools,” Allen says.
Woods says she’d also like to be someone young black girls can look up to.
“I made it here because someone told me i can,” Woods says. “And if I can be that person to let them know that it’s possible, I’m here, and you can be here too.”
Cox Media Group