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Towson

April Owens makes history as first African American female captain in Baltimore County Fire Department

Making history is April Owens’ thing. Not only did she become the first African American woman to be promoted to fire captain in the Baltimore County Fire Department, but it happened during Black History Month.

“I am honored,” Owens said. “I feel humbled, proud, blessed. It means a lot to many people here and the people before me.”

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Lt. Owens was promoted to Capt. Owens on Feb. 26, following closely behind the promotion of Baltimore City’s first African American female captain, Khalilah Yancey, who attained that rank in December 2021.

Baltimore County promoted the first African American male fire captain, Mark E. Garrett, in 1995. The first female fire captain, Danelle England-Dansicker, attained the rank in 1989 and rose to be a division chief.

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At the time of her promotion, Owens was the department’s highest-ranking Black woman. Since then, another Black woman in the department, Terri Reid, has been promoted to EMS captain, an equivalent rank. Owens said proper representation has been a slow progression, but a progression nonetheless.

Owens first served as a cadet for Baltimore City, joining Baltimore County in 2003. She’s been working in fire rescue for 19 years. Over the years, Owens has worked in dispatch, and as fire marshal and lieutenant at the Essex Fire Department.

“I’ve always wanted to work in public safety,” Owens said. “If I wasn’t in fire rescue, I would have been a doctor.” She was a lifeguard in high school as well.

Owens, a Towson resident, is the mother of two children who seem to be proud of their mom’s accomplishment. “When my kids found out about it [promotion] they went around their school telling everyone,” Owens said.

“I want my kids to look at me and say ‘Mom did her best. She went out there and achieved what she wanted,’” Owens said.

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Achieving the captain’s rank did not come easy to her. Being 5-feet, 1-inch tall and a Black female in a workspace where most are tall white men, she had to make her own way. Firefighting is physically strenuous and demanding.

“I had to stay determined to succeed,” Owens said.

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She also attributes her success to her family and retired fire specialist Irvin Lewis.

“I met him [Lewis] when I was just a recruit and from that time on, he has encouraged, mentored and motivated me to get promoted,” Owens said.

Lewis gave Capt. Owens advice over the years that helped her to navigate the fire department.

In her future? Fire chief is the goal. For now, she’s getting comfortable in her new position and would like to start teaching again. She wants to mentor the next generation of Black girls to be who they want to be and strive for the stars.

“I’m appreciative to all the people who came before me,” Owens said.


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