The first female ever hired by the Montgomery County Fire Department is retiring after 32 years of service.
Firefighter Pam Foltz is putting on her fire gear for the last time Thursday. Foltz broke barriers and endured many hardships to pave the way for women across the region.
"I've always taken care of the citizens of Montgomery County or the people on my shift, and now it's time for me to take care of myself," Foltz said.
She grew up next to a firehouse and had dreams of becoming a firefighter. In 1980, Foltz applied at 21 years old.
She accepted, but had no idea she was the first woman in Montogmery County. In fact, she was only the 25th female firefighter in the entire country.
"I did not realize what an impact me being hired was going to be, I just wanted this job," she said.
It wasn't an easy domain to break into. She had to cut her hair three times her first week to get it short enough to meet the male hair standards.
Some of the instructors wanted her out so badly, Foltz says they were planning to burn her during fire tests to get her to quit. The fire chief had to intervene. Now Foltz is proud to have paved the way.
"Whether I leave or not there's going to be women behind me they're coming, they are coming," she said.
"She's just an inspiration for women especially that we can do this job and if we work hard we will be respected and that's really important," said fellow Montgomery County firefighter Jamie Baltrotski.
Despite the challenges, Foltz stuck with it. Now 52, she looks back on her trail-blazing career, ready to pass the torch to the next generation. Words of advice?
"Live your dream, never say you can't because you can. I'm living proof that if you want it bad enough, anything, you can do it," she said.
Foltz is proud there are now more than 100 women firefighters in the department, from bomb technicians and officers to fire chiefs. She will retire in Ocean City and care for her elderly parents. Knowing she probably won't be able to stay away, Foltz will likely volunteer with the fire department there.