Monterey Welcomes Its First Female Fire Captain

Fighting fires wasn't something Kelly Davidian really considered as a career early on because she'd been talked out of it.

Her grandfather was a firefighter and she knew how physically taxing the job is. Others around her dissuaded her from taking firefighting courses.

But a twist of fate more than 10 years ago changed her life and her career choice.

Davidian, 41, now stands proudly among Monterey firefighters as the first woman captain in the department's 120-year history.

It wasn't until she was out of school and working as a massage therapist in Santa Barbara that she made her decision. She worked with firefighters and saw a woman a bit smaller than herself who was in the fire service.

"I thought if she can do the job... I can do the job."

She enrolled in the fire academy and then worked for the California Department of Forestry in the 1990s. She later began applying for jobs up and down California and wound up in Monterey when the city offered her a full-time firefighter job in 1993.

"I was very happy about that," she said. "This department has a lot of tradition."

For the past four years Davidian has been working as a fire engineer.

Now she is keeping her family tradition alive. Davidian's grandfather, great-uncle and brother share her passion and have worked as firefighters.

Some of her memories include listening to her brother talk about the times he would spend with their grandfather at the fire station and then fishing the next day.

Now she gets a firsthand look at the daily workings of a fire station.

"This is an ideal position," Davidian said. "The captain goes on calls and supports people, leads and teaches people."

Moments and even days after Davidian discovered her new role, she was still surprised about her promotion.

People working with Davidian knew how hard she'd worked to earn her new role. She was often seen hitting the books for eight to 10 hours a day instead of watching television at night.

"You'll always find her doing something mind-stimulating," said Monterey division chief Mike Ventimigilia.

Ventimiglia said he urged her several times to take the test because he had seen promise and potential in Davidian.

"She is very inspiring," he added. "Anything she does she does wholeheartedly."

In Ventimiglia's 35 years with the department, five women have been hired. A few left because they were injured and others moved on before they had a chance to test for a captain's position.

"This is a big step," he said. "She is the first female being promoted in a male-dominated department with nothing but male officers."

Davidian isn't sure if a fire chief's role is in her future, but she can see herself working in the fire service indefinitely.

"I'm going to take it one step at a time," she said. "I'm excited to be captain."

The Monterey Fire Department is making Davidian's position official on Friday in a badge-pinning ceremony, along with several other promotions that include a new division chief and two fire engineers.

Monterey Fire Chief Greg Glass said he is confident about Davidian's skills.

"She is a strong finisher," he said. "When she is assigned to a program or task she will stay on it until it is done. She is a quality person."