A Firefighter First

Photography by Callie Cranford

By Holly Fisher
Back in the 1990s, Angela Jones-Green was a single mom of three working in construction when a friend told her about the possibility of being a firefighter. The schedule and benefits were appealing to Angela as she juggled work and kids.

She started out as a firefighter with the North Charleston Fire Department before moving to the city of Charleston Fire Department in 1997. Its schedule of 24 hours on and 48 hours off was more conducive to motherhood, she says.

At that time, Angela was one of three female firefighters in the city of Charleston and when the other two women left, Angela was the lone woman for quite some time. She worked hard, giving 110 percent, she says. She wanted to prove she was a true firefighter, not just someone with the title who didn’t do the work.

Her male co-workers took note, recognizing, “This chick is really serious,” Angela says.
Angela trained to drive the firetruck, rising to assistant engineer and ultimately to engineer in 2006 – the first African-American woman to hold those positions within the city.

“I had a good experience. The guys didn’t see me as ‘lady Angie’ or ‘girl Angie,’ they saw me as a firefighter and an assistant engineer that was going to get them to the fire,” she says.

Angela’s career as a firefighter ended after a knee injury that required surgery. She stayed with the city of Charleston, becoming a code enforcement officer. She worked in that role until 2015 when she became the director of parking.

Her husband – whom she married in 2001 – was diagnosed with colon cancer a few years ago. Angela needed to adjust her schedule to better care for him, so she returned to the less-demanding schedule of a code enforcement officer.

These days, Angela is taking some time to care for herself. After neck surgery in January, she’s been home recovering. She hopes to return to work, yet believes this break is a blessing. Her husband is on dialysis and she’s grateful to be home to help him.

The mother of three and grandmother of seven is a natural caretaker, making her work in public service for 20 years a perfect fit.

“I love working with people, helping,” she says.

At her church, she teaches CPR and first aid courses. “I just try to help anybody that needs help.”

As a firefighter, she even rescued fellow firefighter James “Earl” Drayton, pulling him out of harm’s way as they battled a house fire. Drayton later died in June 2007 – one of the nine firefighters killed while fighting a massive fire at a Sofa Super Store in West Ashley.

Angela had left the fire department about six months before that tragedy, but she’ll never forget that day when so many of her colleagues – many of them like family – died. “It was hard,” she says.
And yet, despite the dangers, Angela says if she hadn’t gotten injured, she’d still be rushing to the scene of a fire, ready to help.

“Once you become a firefighter, you just never forget what you learned, what it was like,” she says. “It just gets in your blood.”

For her years of public service, Angela will be honored at the YWCA’s What Women Bring event on May 21. She is one of 10 women recognized for her leadership in business, community and culture.

When Angela decided to pursue a career as a firefighter, she wasn’t thinking about breaking barriers. She was simply being a good mom, looking for a job that would provide benefits, good pay and time at home with her kids, she says.

“I was a firefighter. Yes, I was a woman, but first I was a firefighter.”