Carrollton, Texas – The City of Carrollton is proud to announce Debbie Carpenter as the new Assistant Fire Chief of Support Services for Carrollton Fire Rescue (CFR).
Carpenter is a 23-year veteran of the department having held every rank within CFR from firefighter to, now, assistant chief. In her new role, she will oversee the Fire Prevention, Emergency Management, and Personnel divisions.
“I cannot say with certainty what my favorite thing in each rank has been, though I can say how much I learned at every position,” Carpenter said. “As a firefighter and a paramedic, you learn to be part of the team, working together to achieve goals. As a driver, you are still doing that, but you realize that you truly have your coworkers’ lives in your hands as you transport them in a 40,000-lb rig to a call and provide them with water through the hose lines, sometimes the only thing standing between them and injury or death from a fire.
“As a captain, you get to develop your own functioning team, and there is no greater feeling than the pride of having your people come together to make someone’s day better. When I was a battalion chief on shift, that feeling of being the coach of a great team was magnified on structure fires and rescues, and I had the opportunity to work with dozens of firefighters that I might not have known if I were not in charge of the shift. As an assistant chief, I am learning every day what goes into the department at an administrative level, and I am looking forward to gaining proficiency as time progresses.”
Carpenter decided to join CFR after a serendipitous station visit and ride out with some soccer league friends of hers who were firefighters. But she’ll admit, she didn’t always know she wanted a career in the fire service.
“I grew up with no inkling of being a firefighter and instead stumbled on this, the best job in the world, after I was an adult. Growing up in the 1970s, most girls did not want to be a ‘fireman’ from the name alone.”
But now, Carpenter recognizes the opportunity and the responsibility she has to mentor other women interested in going into public service and to work as a role model for young girls, showing them that they can do anything. Carpenter said she counts the thank you notes she has received from Girl Scout troops and after school programs among her biggest accomplishments.
Carpenter’s passions include kayaking and mountain biking, and she has turned those hobbies into opportunities to partner with wounded armed services veterans in long-distance canoe and kayak races and mountain bike trail building.
Through CFR, Carpenter was introduced to Parkland Burn Camp, where she has served for 18 years as a camp counselor at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp for children who have been hospitalized with burn injuries. She also serves on the board of directors of the Foundation for Laughter, a full-time medical clowning non-profit that employs professional clowns in hospitals nationwide.
One of the biggest lessons Carpenter said she learned from her predecessor, recently retired Assistant Chief Mark Haseloff, who served with CFR for 28 years, was to have fun on the job.
“Laughter helps us to diffuse the stressful situations we deal with as emergency responders, and having fun makes you look forward to your job every day,” Carpenter said. “As an assistant chief, Mark took care of his people, and I hope to follow that example in the remainder of my time with Carrollton.”
Carpenter said she’s very fortunate to be inheriting the position from Haseloff, who was competent and dedicated, and she plans to continue his leadership example. She also plans to expand upon the public’s understanding and perception of what prevention personnel do, fire inspectors in particular.
“There is a perception that fire inspectors exist to ruin people’s days and tell them how to run their businesses, when in actuality, we are there to make buildings safer for everyone on a daily basis – owners, occupants, customers, and firefighters, should an event occur there.”
Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Oklahoma and earned a Master of Science in Public Safety Administration from Lewis University in 2016. She received Firefighter of the Year in 1997 and Fire Officer of the Year in 2012. She is a certified Blue Card Command instructor and has trained more than 100 officers and move-up officers in incident command and communications.
“From day one with Carrollton Fire Rescue, I have felt that I was welcomed into the firefighting family,” Carpenter said. “I cannot imagine this career without all of my brothers and sisters that I have worked with for almost 23 years, and I look forward to the years to come.”
And they’re looking forward to it as well. CFR Fire Chief Gregg Salmi said he is extremely proud of Carpenter’s accomplishment in earning the assistant chief position after studying for months, taking the written civil service exam, and demonstrating her expertise.
“Debbie is highly qualified and has proven herself in every position in our department that she has held,” Salmi said. “I have complete confidence in Debbie’s abilities and am excited to have her as part of our command staff.”
For more information on Carrollton Fire Rescue, visit cityofcarrollton.com/fire.