The Anchorage Fire Department has its first female chief Wednesday, a senior leader elevated from within to replace its recently retired head.

Jodie Hettrick, formerly AFD’s deputy chief for operations, will take the job immediately according to Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s office. She succeeds Denis LeBlanc, who stepped down from AFD’s top job in May.

“Jodie Hettrick has earned the respect of the AFD staff during her time as Deputy Fire Chief,” Berkowitz said in a statement Wednesday. “She has been instrumental in moving the department forward, and will continue to make sure that AFD remains one of the finest departments in the country.”

Hettrick has served with AFD since 2012. Her resume includes previous work with the state Division of Fire and Life Safety, as well as the Valdez and Central Mat-Su fire departments.

Hettrick said by phone Wednesday that the step up to chief “wasn’t a big learning curve,” because she had previously served as acting chief in LeBlanc’s absence during vacations.

“One of the fortunate things about Chief LeBlanc is that he was very good at information sharing,” Hettrick said. “He shared what was on his plate, I shared what was on my plate, so we were very good at handling things for each other.”

Both AFD’s search to replace LeBlanc and one to hire a new deputy chief of operations have been internal hires within the department, she said.

“I let them know I was interested and received an interview,” Hettrick said.

Asked how she feels to the first woman leading AFD, Hettrick said she’s “very thankful for the opportunity.

“I am very humbled and just amazed that I have the opportunity to lead this organization,” Hettrick said. “This is one of the best groups I’ve ever worked with in my life and their dedication to the community is just impressive.”

AFD Deputy Chief Erich Scheunemann said a formal promotion ceremony was in the works for Hettrick, with its date not immediately set.

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