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Breaking Barriers: Geneva Fire Department hires first female firefighter in city history

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Posted at 6:19 AM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 07:05:20-04

GENEVA, Ohio — Geneva Fire Chief Dale Arkenburg started his career in 1995 and became chief in 2015.

“We are a very close department,” he said.

Soon, he will hang up his hat and start a new chapter of his life.

“July 10 will be my last day as fire chief here,” he said.

Arkenburg said looking back at his decades in firefighting, he feels like he’s accomplished a lot.

“There are many proud moments,” he said.

As chief, he’s proud of getting new trucks for the department and created a training center in Ashtabula County in honor of a city firefighter who lost his life on a call.

“You know of tackle each one as they come,” he said.

But there was still one goal, he was itching to accomplish before retirement: he wanted to hire a female firefighter.

“We would get the applicants but, for whatever reason, they wouldn’t get through the whole process,” said Arkenburg. “It was a goal of mine early in my career and it’s pretty fitting at the end of my career that this is happening.”

Twenty-three-year-old Rachel Carcell changed that narrative.

“It’s great to have other females see that you can actually do this,” she said.

She was recently sworn in as the first female firefighter in the department’s history.

“I’m ecstatic. It’s great,” said Carcell.

Carcell is a Geneva native. She knew at a young age that she wanted to be a helper in the community.

“Rachel started off as an explorer through the high school days,” said Arkenburg.

She completed the department’s ‘Explorer’ program, which teaches students about firefighters when she was 15 years old.

Now, she hopes to inspire other women like her.

“I was approached by a nurse who said her daughter has been so ecstatic, every time she sees someone she has to tell them ‘Hey look at this,’ and has her mom pull the picture up and go ‘Look she’s a girl, she’s a female, she’s a firefighter. I can do that I want to do that’ and it’s great to hear that,” said Carcell.

And as her career just begins, Arkenburg said he can end his knowing that the future of the department is bright.

“I’m very excited that we have broken down that barrier,” he said.