Debbie Taylor, new East Shelby fire chief, first woman to lead fire department in Orleans County

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Debbie Taylor of East Shelby poses with the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company’s newest piece of equipment, a pumper/tanker, which she will be driving a lot more, now that she’s been named fire chief of the department. She is the first woman to serve in that position in Orleans County.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 12 November 2020 at 1:03 pm

‘She’ll be a role model for any lady who wants to become a firefighter or EMS member.’ – Dale Banker, county EMO director

EAST SHELBY – When Debbie Taylor first joined East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company at age 21, she had no thought of becoming a longtime member, let alone, be named fire chief, the first woman from Orleans County in that role.

Taylor received the honor at the fire company’s Nov. 3 meeting.

David Green, who will celebrate 60 years as a member on Dec. 13, has served in many positions, including chief. He had nothing but praise for Taylor, who he called loyal, hard working and dedicated.

“She’s been a member for quite a few years, and she works hard,” Green said. “She is quick to learn things, she’s well organized and she’s got the personality to do a really great job.”

Taylor changed positions with former chief Andy Beach, who has a new baby at home and is very busy on his farm. He was anxious to step down, Taylor said.

After joining East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company at age 21, Taylor moved away and then came back and rejoined. She’s been a member now for 16 years. She said joining the fire company was a natural thing.

“I grew up watching the TV show ‘Emergency,” and when I married Jeff, both he and his father were members of East Shelby fire company.”

When she first joined, she said the thought of becoming chief wasn’t even on her radar.

“I just wanted to do something for my community,” she said.

Debbie Taylor, who was just elected chief of the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company on Nov. 3, is dwarfed next to their new pumper/tanker, Truck No. 36.

Serving the fire company is a family activity of the Taylors. Husband Jeff is fire captain and son Devin is first assistant chief. Debbie has worked her way up from lieutenant, to captain and 2nd assistant chief. She hopes to some day pass the chief’s hat to her son.

“There is no competition among us,” Debbie said. “We have a great fire company and we all work very well together. The fire company is my second family.”

Jeff was first assistant chief, and he stepped back so Devin and Debbie could advance.

Debbie drives school bus for the Medina School District, so she would usually be free to answer a fire call.

“I’m still going to be learning things, with all the modern technology,” Debbie said. “It’s always changing.”

‘We have a great fire company and we all work very well together. The fire company is my second family.’ – Debbie Taylor, East Shelby fire chief

She is not intimidated by driving even the biggest fire truck. She has had her CDL license since she was 19 and got it to drive milk truck.

The biggest challenge, Debbie said, is the fact of the unknown when responding to a call.

“You don’t know what you’re going to encounter,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of help from Dale Banker, director of Orleans County Emergency Management, and Jerry Bentley (deputy coordinator).”

Banker said having the first woman chief is a great thing for the county.

“She’ll be a role model for any lady who wants to become a firefighter or EMS member,” he said. “As long as they are properly trained, a woman can do well in a firefighting role.”

He said the county is fortunate to have several women coming up the ranks, any one of whom he wouldn’t be surprised to see become chief of their fire company. These include Kristin McAdoo, who is assistant chief of Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company; Crystal Luckman and her sister Tiffany Petry in Shelby; Sue Maslyn, EMS captain in Kendall; Patty Knapp, EMS captain in Holley; and Robin Hughson, captain in Carlton.

“I look forward to working with Debbie, or any of the ladies,” Banker said. “With the shortage of firefighters and EMS personnel, these women fill an important role.”

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