You Can Still Be It, Even When You Can’t See It” Leadership Panel
October 27, 2023
Hilton Garden Inn Toronto Airport West/Mississauga 1870 Matheson Blvd, Mississauga, Ontario, L4W 0B3, Canada
Facilitated by FSWO President Pike Krpan(Moderator) Panelists: Mississauga Fire Chief, Deryn Rizzi, Ottawa Deputy Fire Chief Louise Hine-Schmidt, Kingston Fire Chief Monique Belair, FDNY Batallion Chief Michele Fitzsimmons
FSWO President Pike Krpan will moderate a session of highly regarded, respected, senior level of Chiefs who will highlight their experiences about being the first of most women in the fire service to be promoted and the first to lead. This will be a very informative and engaging discussion on a group of women who were pioneers when they entered a profession that didn’t have other women as mentors to help lead the way. Even when they couldn’t see it, they knew they could be it!
is a career firefighter with the City of Hamilton since 2013. They currently
serve the firefighting community as FSWO President. They have been a member of
FSWO since the beginning of their career. They are the organizer of Camp FFIT
(Female Firefighters in Training) Hamilton, an annual three-day camp that takes
place every fall at Hamilton Fire's training facility for young women aged
Pike is a proud member of an engine crew and
also works in communications/dispatch, technical rescue (high angle rope
rescue) and as a driver/pump operator at Hamilton Fire. They were the recipient
of a full Honeywell Scholarship to FDIC 2016. They studied Pre-Service
Firefighter Education at FESTI (Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute)
in 2012 and was hired within six months of their graduation.
Pike brings a varied background to their career
in the fire service. They completed their Masters of Arts at the Ontario
Institute of Education in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, with a
focus on women's issues in education. Previously, they worked in international
development education in diverse countries such as Cuba, Ecuador and Jamaica
after getting their undergraduate degree in International Development and
Women's Studies at Trent University.
Pike is currently a mentor with FSWO's
mentorship program and offers assistance to those considering a career in the
fire service. They also act as a mentor promoting women in firefighting with
the Women in Trades program of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program as well
as with the YWCA Hamilton. They were nominated for a YWCA Hamilton Woman of
Distinction Award in 2019 for their work in education and mentoring. They love
to introduce people to the challenge of firefighting.
Chief Deryn Rizzi
Deryn Rizzi serves as the Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management with Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services. Beyond her work in the fire service, Deryn continues to be a trusted, respected and sought after thought leader, committed to educating about proven and emerging best practices in emergency preparedness and response. She speaks nationally and internationally on topics ranging from active threats to leadership. Deryn was named one of Toronto’s most inspirational women by Post City magazine in 2018, named as one of Canada's Most Powerful Women in 2022 by WXN and Fire Chief of the Year by OMFPOA in 2023.
Deryn served as the elected Vice President of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, chaired the Human Relations Committee for the International Association of Fire Chiefs, she was a Director on the Hospice Vaughan Board and the St. John Ambulance Ontario Division. Deryn currently serves as a Board of Director for Mackenzie Health for the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital and Mackenzie Health Richmond Hill.
Deryn completed a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts from Queen’s University. She graduated from York University with a Masters of Arts, Disaster and Emergency Management, completed a Diploma in Public Administration from Western University, holds a Masters Certificate in Municipal Leadership from the Schulich School of Business and is completing her PhD at York University.
Deputy Chief Louise Hine-Schmidt
Louise is a Deputy Chief
with Ottawa Fire Services and is one of the first of three women firefighters
hired in 1999 in the City of Ottawa.
Louise is one of the three
founding members of FSWO who also helped to establish Camp FFIT(Female
Firefighters In Training) which has served as a model for other fire services
from across Canada. Louise is honoured to have served as the first President of
FSWO from 2009-2011 and then again from 2015-2019.
Louise is an accomplished
athlete who represented Canada at the Pan Am Games in 1987 winning two silver
medals in sprint kayaking. She is married to Brent for over 32 years, and they
have a daughter who is an Olympian on the Canadian National sprint kayak team
and a son who is an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer.
Louise has an honours BPhEd
(University of Ottawa), an Executive Diploma in Municipal Management (Western
Ontario/Seneca College) and a Certification in Dispute Resolution, (York
With a membership that grew
from 3 to over 1000, Louise is incredibly proud of the impact FSWO has had in
improving diversity and inclusivity in Canada’s fire service. Louise’s many
years as a member of the Board Executive helps to provide the organization with
the experience and leadership needed to contribute to the overall success of
Chief Monique Belair
Fire Chief Monique Belair is a Fire Service Leader with 30+ years of knowledge and experience and has always been committed to facilitating and educating young women about the opportunities a career with the fire service. Monique was recently hired as Kingston’s new Fire Chief after having served as the Chief of Director of Emergency Services and Fire Chief for Belleville Fire and Emergency Services. Chief Belair began her career as a Crash Rescue/Structural Firefighter with the Canadian Armed Forces in 1986 and was one of five females serving on military bases throughout Canada. She continued her career progression working in every role of the Fire Service; Communications, Prevention, Education, Investigations and Office of the Fire Marshal where she was able to obtain insight on fire service cultures from the farthest northern rural communities to large urban city centres. Chief Belair is a former director of FSWO and is the current President of Camp Molly.
Battalion Chief Michele Fitzsimmons is the highest-ranking female in FDNYs Fire Operations. She is currently assigned to Battalion 46, located in Elmhurst, Queens. She joined the FDNY May of 2001. During her career she has been an instructor at the Fire Academy, a member of the Family Assistance Unit, a Peer Fitness Firefighter Trainer, a part of the FDNY’s Mental Performance Initiative and a Cohost of the JoinFDNY Podcast.
Chief Fitzsimmons is a graduate of the FDNY Officers Management Institute, an FDNY program collaboration with Columbia University. She has lectured at Wharton Business School and University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Program. She was a guest on Leadership Under Fire’s Optimizing Human Performance Podcast and the FDNY Pro Podcast. She has instructed classes at Fire Service Women of Ontario and Fire Service Women of NYS’s annual conferences.
Michele has been the President of FireFLAG/EMS, the affiliate organization for LGBTQ+ members of the FDNY, since 2020. This is her second term as President having previously held the position in 2002 and 2003. In 2007 she cofounded Phoenix Firecamp, a weeklong sleep away camp that introduces girls ages 14-19 to opportunities in the Fire Service through classroom and hands on training hosted by The Utica Fire Department.