US: Spokane fire chief embraces diversity, helping pave way for transgender fire captain

When Brian Schaeffer was chosen to be the new Spokane Fire Chief, he set out to diversify the department in a way that extends beyond numbers. 

Schaeffer's role follows a family tradition.  He joined the Spokane Fire Department 12 years ago and his dad worked as a firefighter in Illinois.  He is now three months in as the new Spokane Fire Chief and is leading his department into brand new territory.

“Our role has significantly changed, more toward enhancing people's lives, preventing harm, and then responding to those emergency incidents,” Schaeffer said.  “The perspective we have now is: Everything we do is focused on enhancing people's lives and earning their trust.”

Back in May, Schaeffer was heavily criticized for posting a controversial sign stating “All are welcome here” on the front door of every fire station in the city.

“We’re open to everyone, and I firmly believe that,” Schaeffer said.

But not everyone liked the signs.

“And I don't expect them to. That's the beautiful thing about the United States. We can certainly have different beliefs,” Schaeffer said.  “But at the end of the day... It can't be something you just don't talk about. It's not a check box. It's not a policy. It's a culture, and to change that culture, it starts at the top.”

The idea for a change in culture started with Schaeffer and steadily has started to trickle down.

Maeve Griffith has been a part of Chief Schaeffer’s team for 18 years.  For most of her career, she went by John, harboring her transgender lifestyle from fellow firefighters and from her family. Read more via KREM