"When I was younger, I didn’t realize what Milwaukee could become. I had to travel before realizing that we had been missing out."

WHO: For one day last fall, the Milwaukee Fire Department had an all-female crew for the first time ever, and Sharon Purifoy, 49, was its captain. She was promoted to battalion chief in May and works 24 hours straight every three days. With the rest of her time, this native Milwaukeean tries to experience every part of her city alongside her fiancé (who is also a battalion chief) and beloved niece.

WHERE: Milwaukee Fire Department Station No. 9, 4141 W. Mill Rd.


IIt all starts with the festivals. When we go to each of the different cultural fests, we’ll find new foods we’ve never heard of before, and then we’ll use those experiences to help us find new restaurants. And it’s very easy because so many new restaurants are popping up: Nigerian, Somalian, stuff I never would’ve tried. Our goal is to try a different restaurant every week.

When I was younger, I didn’t realize what Milwaukee could become. I had to travel before realizing that we had been missing out. Our Downtown used to shut down at 5 o’clock. When businesses closed, that was it. It isn’t like that anymore, and that’s good.

In 2019, I still have people come up to me and say they’ve never seen a black female firefighter. I would like to see that change. We owe it to our city. We have people here who are capable of doing this job. Why aren’t they here?

I want this role to be my platform to show young ladies, and guys, this can be you. How are young people supposed to know they can become a firefighter if they don’t see someone like them doing it? 

— Sharon Purifoy, as told to Adam Rogan


Why I Love” appears in the November 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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