New York’s first female fire commissioner: ‘It only matters if I’m not the last’


Laura Kavanagh, who became the first female commissioner of the New York City Fire Department on Thursday, hopes her appointment will pave the way for other women to fill the role in the future.

“This moment – me being the first – only matters if I’m not the last,” Kavanagh said.

He said that having a woman in that role is a change, but it also brings an opportunity to strengthen the department.

“This is a new look for the Fire Commissioner of New York, but we must remember that our department has changed a lot over its 157-year history, and it has always gotten better over the years,” Kavanagh said.

During his time with the FDNY, Kavanagh has helped lead the agency’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2015 and the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.

Kavanagh assumed the role of acting fire commissioner in February, when former commissioner Daniel Nigro announced his retirement.

She was also responsible for leading the firefighter recruitment campaign, which resulted in the most diverse applicant pool in the department’s history and led to more women serving as FDNY firefighters than ever before, according to the FDNY.

Prior to serving with the FDNY, Kavanagh worked at New York City Hall as a special assistant to former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Kavanagh’s appointment follows New York Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who became the first female chief in her department’s history when she was appointed in 2021.

“Gender should not define who we are and what we can be,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

Adams also addressed the men of the FDNY, saying they should be proud of the message they sent to support female leaders.

“You’re sending a message to all agencies and administrations around the world that the FDNY is the most important fire department in this country,” Adams said. “And when you say as a man in this agency that you will continue to lead regardless of gender, you are raising your own level as a firefighter.”

CNN has reached out to the FDNY Union for comment.