SMFD Welcomes First Full-time Female

Assistant Editor

After 129 years, the St. Marys Fire Department has officially hired its first full-time female firefighter/paramedic. Following months of testing, evaluating and interviewing, Emma Tobias has etched her name in history as the first female to join the hundreds who have served the city of St. Marys since the establishment of the city’s fire department in 1890.

“It makes me very excited to be able to experience (being the first) but it won’t make the job any different for me,” she said. “I grew up being ‘one of the guys’ and I imagine that will continue with the guys here. I don’t think it will make a difference to them.”

A native of Akron, Tobias began her career working in a Level I trauma center where she dealt with emergencies on a regular basis. After several years there, she met the man who would eventually become her husband online. 

She moved to the St. Marys area soon after and she began working at Mercy Health — St. Rita’s Hospital in Lima just under two years ago. While she enjoyed her 10 years in EMS and at  hospitals, she felt she had a bigger role to fill in the community.

“I’ve always wanted to become a firefighter/paramedic,” she said. “I’ve had my paramedic certification for about seven years now so to be on a full-time fire department, being able to run on 911 calls and help the community is something I’ve always wanted to do. When the opportunity came available, I didn’t hesitate to put my application in.”

While Tobias may be the first female to be hired full-time, the department has previously had females on its auxiliary service until that unit was disbanded in the early 2000s. Chief Doug Ayers noted that he felt the time was coming for the department to make that fact change.

“The writing has been on the wall, in a way,” he said. “With each of our last three tests, we have had multiple women take the test and advance to the interview portion. The two previous hirings, the best qualified candidates happened to be men. This time around, Emma was the best candidate we had.”

The decision to hire Tobias was a difficult one according to Director of Service and Safety Greg Foxhoven but not because she is female.

“First of all, I'd like to say how impressed we were with all the applicants who applied for the open position,” he said. “She'll make a great addition to an already top notch department.”

Despite never having a full-time female on the service before, minimal changes have to be made to the station. For several years, the crew has had separate sleeping quarters for each member on duty but previous leadership did not believe locks were necessary on the doors to those rooms.

That has since changed under Ayers’ command.

“We don’t have much to adjust here,” he said. “The biggest change is that we have to buy brand new uniforms for her because we don’t currently have any that fit her. We will get her a new set of bunker gear but she does have a set that will fit her for the time being.

“These are all common things we do for every new member of the department.”

In addition to new equipment, Tobias will be enrolled in the Ohio Fire Academy where she will work to earn her Level II firefighter certification. Though she has never worked as a firefighter before, she is excited by the opportunity to learn a new aspect of the job.

Her first day on the department will be Dec. 9 and she said she is ready to get to work to help the residents of St. Marys.

“I hope the citizens can have faith in me; I know it’s been a boys team for a while but hopefully people don’t see me as not being able to do the job or think I’m not strong enough just because I’m a female,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting out, working with the guys and serving the city of St. Marys.”