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Howard County Fire Chief Christine Uhlhorn, on a new fire truck at the Fire and Rescue Services headquarters. A third generation firefighter, Uhlhorn is the first female to become chief of the county's department.
Howard County Fire Chief Christine Uhlhorn, on a new fire truck at the Fire and Rescue Services headquarters. A third generation firefighter, Uhlhorn is the first female to become chief of the county's department. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

After 30 years of service to Howard County’s Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Christine Uhlhorn, 51, was set to retire in December 2018. That was before newly elected County Executive Calvin Ball convinced her to stay on to lead the department as its first female chief. Outside of work, the Harford County resident finds joy in unusual places:

She raises backyard chickens. Uhlhorn can often be seen at home wearing T-shirts that read “Crazy Chicken Lady” and “My Tribe Has Feathers.” She and her two kids – who are both 13, but not twins – tend to six roosters and six hens with names like Dell and Loretta. They’re part of the family and even have Christmas stockings. Uhlhorn takes fresh eggs to work where they’re cooked in a steamer.

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She’s hard to beat at surprises. Three Christmases ago, Uhlhorn gave her kids swimsuits, sunscreen, shorts and suitcases, which she cleverly passed off as clearance items for camping trips. At bedtime, she told them to pack their gifts for a surprise trip. They flew to Miami on Dec. 26, which she let the kids believe was their final destination, before boarding a ship to Nassau the next day. They’ve gone on four cruises since then and will sail out of New Orleans this year to visit a haunted swamp. “When there’s a surprise looming, it drives them nuts,” she says gleefully.

She volunteers as a child advocate. Uhlhorn has worked for six years with Court Appointed Special Advocates, a nonprofit that helps children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. She was overjoyed when a child she’d helped learn to trust again was recently adopted by his second foster care family. Motivated by “a real love of kids,” she plans to volunteer more often when she actually retires.

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