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Aimee Murry promoted to division chief in Lodi Fire Department

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Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 10:00 pm

For the first time in 18 years, Aimee Murry isn't working a 24-hour shift. She's also not sleeping in a fire house, ready to wake up at a moment's notice and run to a fire or medical emergency.

That's going to be one of the bigger adjustments for Murry, who on Wednesday was promoted to division chief, one of two positions ranking directly beneath the fire chief.

Though she's the first female in Lodi history to hold such a rank, and went from captain to division chief - bypassing the battalion chief position - Murry doesn't make a big deal out of it.

Rather, she just wants to get down to business in her new job of overseeing operations in the department of 64 employees. The job includes policies and procedures, hiring and firing, disciplining, disaster preparation, planning for new stations and overseeing fire suppression.

"I'm hoping, coming straight from the line working with the guys, I know what the concerns are," she said this week, her last time working a 24-hour shift, known as "the line."

Murry, a third-generation native from Hughson near Modesto, grew up as the youngest of three children on her family's farm. Her plan was to become a nurse or doctor, and she was leaning more toward the doctor field when she started at Modesto Junior College. There she obtained her emergency medical technician's certification and started working for an ambulance company.

Then a friend, who worked for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, suggested that Murry apply for a job there. He thought Murry would like it, and she took to it immediately.

Newly promoted Division Chief Aimee Murry hugs her father, Donald Murry, of Groveland, after he pinned her new badge on at Carnegie Forum on Wednesday. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

"I always loved camping, so it was just a bigger campfire," she said with a grin.

Murry broke the news to her parents that she'd changed her career plans away from being a doctor. They were a bit disappointed, she said, but never wavered in their support.

Her father, a single red rose in hand, was there to pin on her division chief's badge Wednesday morning. Her mother and sister each pinned on the gold bugles that adorn the white collar of Murry's sleeve.

The bugles symbolize command, Fire Chief Michael Pretz said.

"She has earned the right to command," he told a crowd of about 50 people who gathered to watch the brief ceremony.

Murry was one of half-adozen people who applied for the position, which had been held by Kevin Donnelly, who replaced retired fire marshal Verne Person and is division chief of prevention.

She and several others went through rounds of interviews in front of high-ranking chiefs at other departments ranging from Modesto to Fairfield, Pretz said.

"They were very impressed with her, and I think that speaks very well of people in the whole department, if they impress those outside the department," he said.

At the age of 19, Murry began doing seasonal work with CDF, sometimes spending three weeks at a time at raging forest fires. She spent five years with CDF, the last three in Twain Harte.

In the meantime, she completed her associate's degree in fire science from Columbia College. Then she began applying for full-time positions, and Lodi hired her in February 1996.

She was the first female firefighter in Lodi, so the department had to make a few alterations, like putting a "Women's Locker Room" sign on a door. She's still the only female in the department.

That's not something Murry focuses on, and she doesn't want to be singled out for it. For her, she said, it's far more important to simply be a good example by doing a good job.

Whether she's sent to a house fire or to help lift an elderly person who needs medical attention, she sees all calls as important.

In the past dozen years, Murry has also sat on a number of committees at the department, including safety, labor negotiations and fund-raisers.

"Go bigger or go home - that's my motto. In this field, you've got to give 100 percent," she said.

And she does: On her days off she's often doing some sort of outdoors activity, whether it's camping or skiing. She likes to hunt and recently shot her first elk in Idaho, a photo of which is the background on her cell phone.

Her next challenge is adjusting to working business hours and no longer dashing to a fire engine at a moment's notice. It's not something she will forget, she told her fellow firefighters Wednesday.

"I won't let you guys down, and believe me, I won't forget where I came from," she said. "If I do, give me a swift kick."

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 12:45 pm on Fri, Jan 9, 2009.


    Neo,Those "non-union paramedics" you refer to are represented by the SEIU. Sorry to burst your bubble.

  • posted at 11:45 am on Fri, Jan 9, 2009.


    Last I checked:Council members are elected, not appointed.For every study about how a 12 hour shift would be better in the Fire Service, there is another about how the 24 hour shift is more economical.The "built in overtime" amounts to 3 hours per week, is accounted for in a firefighters annual salary, and is forfieted if any time off is taken.The "sleep" that some of you are upset about is not the same "sleep" you get in your bed next to your spouse. Ask your wife how well she sleeps with a baby in the next room. She is always on the edge of sleep, ready to jump out of bed on a moments notice. That is the best example of how a fireman sleeps, while on duty. Oh, and the "baby" wakes them up to feed, three or four times each night.

  • posted at 5:42 pm on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    You want firefighters to work 12 hr shifts because your upset that they get to sleep. Then you have to hire twice as many firefighter to do the same job.Dont think the city can afford it. And who thinks its a great idea to keep a half million dollar fire engine roaming the streets at night. Why waste fuel and wear and tear on a fire engine. And one more thing.. Be glad fire fighters go on medical calls, because trust me you don't want AMR there all by themselves. Listen this article is about an accomplishment of a firefighter and not a fire dept bashing. CONGRATS!

  • posted at 2:53 pm on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    patton1, only you would defend yourself. Racism is very rampant in Lodi. Why don't you and your good old boys philosophy have a Hispanic or two on the council? Don't they represent almost 40% of Lodi? Why do you keep them caged in on the eastside? Why not some affordable housing in these new developments for low income minorities? How about the 2000+ strong Pakistani and middle east community? When are you going to recognize them and give them a voice? And you rear admiral patton1 have the gall to call others racist.

  • posted at 2:48 pm on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    And fire protection systems (fire sprinklers) were required in any dwelling 2000 sf or larger, residential or commercial, the FD's could cut their manpower by 1/3. Lodi is very lax and lets all these old, large warehouses, both occupied and empty, and all those firetraps in downtown Lodi go unprotected so their poor owners won't have to pony up money for those fire protection systems which save lives and property, but usually pay for themselves in insurance savings in a 3-7 year period.

  • posted at 1:45 pm on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    hey chief! It`s probably because everybody knows that if it were not for medical calls, 'which should be handled by non-union paramedics to begin with', we could cut fire dept expenditures almost in half! The city of Lodi simply does not have the need for fire services that big cities do.

  • posted at 9:43 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    First of all CONGRADULATIONS Aimee!!!! I will not get into the minority battle. The issue I have is why do firefighters work 24 hrs a day. They absolutely do not need to and they are many jurisdictions in the US that have 2 or three shifts, so you do not pay someone to sleep. Not saying you have to do 8 hours but you could very easily do 12 hour shifts seven days a week. Many places have found there response times are better and you see your Fire Trucks and firefighters out and about instead of locked up in a building after dark until they get a call. You would get twice as much work out of the same people cecause they would be working 4 days a week instead of working 2 days of which they usaully sleep about 12 hrs.(on the average) Many related articles about this exact thing are available. Maybe the Chief or someone can research it but GOOD LUCK getting past the Firefighters Union!!

  • posted at 8:53 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    The highest ranking city official is the city manager. His name is Blair King and he is a ethnic minority. Lodi is not racist but Lodieye clearly is!

  • posted at 8:50 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    You havent traveled the valley much if you think Lodi is redneck. If you dislike it here so much, why dont you move?

  • posted at 7:31 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    Patton1, you don't get it do you? She's worked very hard to achieve this great accomplishment and this helps both Lodi and her. She's a female, considered a minority, in the workplace, and maybe LFD has to have a minority quota in their ranks. Where would they find a minority otherwise? Are there one or more in LFD? It's a very common practice for any civil service or government job to hire females as minorities rather than hiring a REAL minority. Just look at Lodi. How many REAL minorities at LUSD, city hall, city management and even your own city council. I don't think there has ever been a minority city leader or council representative, except, of course, those females hired and considered minorities. Same with the above listed positions. Lodi is a very redneck town filled with nepotism. Why aren't the real minorities hired for management and leadership jobs instead of friends and relatives of the female category?

  • posted at 5:03 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    She seems like a great gal but I dont understand why she was eligable for division chief without first having been battalion chief. Perhaps political correctness in advancing a women?

  • posted at 4:24 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    To All of you useless bloogers that don't have anything else to do, Why is it anytime something happens in your cities fire department you jump all over them?Jealousy,Made wrong career path,Who knows. This is the only community that does this! It doesn't happen in Stockton,Sac,Modesto or anyplace else,But only here in Livable,Lovable Lodi

  • posted at 2:42 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    Come on you guys, you all know that sleeping on the job is a Constitional right of every fireman.

  • posted at 2:25 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    the cops are ready and they don't get paid to sleep during their shift. Paramedics are ready and they don't get paid to sleep. Emergency room nurses are ready and they don't get paid to sleep. Worth visiting the issue don't you think? Response time might even be better if you didn't have to wake up a fireman to get them to respond

  • posted at 2:08 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    Come on T-Jeff, someone has to be at the ready when You choke on your thumb in the middle of the night listening to talk radio. Congrats Aimee!

  • posted at 12:27 am on Thu, Jan 8, 2009.


    Can anyone explain to me why firefighter still work 24 hour shifts?Seems to me like this is one of the biggest wastes of money in the city. They have built in overtime and get paid to sleep? Strange, other operation run 24/7/365 and don't have people on 24 hour shifts.



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