First female Deputy Chief retires from Duluth Fire Department

Emily Ness
Updated: May 29, 2020 10:53 PM

Marie Grondahl found her forte fighting fires over 30 years ago. Since then, Grondahl worked her way up to Fire Marshall and then Deputy Chief—becoming the first female Chief-level officer in the Duluth Fire Department’s history. Following a successful career, she is hanging up her hat. Friday marked her last day on the force.


"I was one of the first three women that was hired. We were all hired the same year and it was hard at first because women just weren’t in the fire service at that time. A lot of people still called us firemen instead of firefighters,” Grondahl said.

At this time, the fire station was not equipped to accommodate female fire fighters.

"They didn’t even really have the accommodations for here. You know, like locker rooms and things. They did make them shortly after we got hired, but for a while, we didn’t even have locker rooms. We had to change in a bathroom or different areas,” Grondahl said.

Despite this, Grondahl said that she enjoyed her time on the Department.

"Its been just a good career and I would do it again,” Grondahl said.

And, for other females on the force, Grondahl’s work has meant the world.

"She was kind of a pioneer, one of the first females to kind of break it in and pave the way for us to be here,” Fire Marshall Sandy McComb said. "I worked right under her and learned everything that I know from her about the fire prevention and code and stuff. She was a great mentor.”

Despite all of the missions Grondahl has been a part of, she said mentoring youth was one of the milestones of her career.

"I really did have a passion for education so you know, I started the mock crashes that we do at the high schools and our car seat clinics and some of the education programs that we have,” Grondahl said. "I would do career days and it was good to go to the middle schools and the high schools.”

Grondahl’s colleagues said her shoes on the fire department will be difficult to fill.

"She’s always been someone that anyone could count on. If you needed something, she’s there for you no questions ask and just will give. She’s a giver and its hard to replace that,” Assistant Fire Chief Clint Reff said.

Going forward, Grondahl hopes to get some golf in and spend time with family. She said she does plan on staying in the Northland.

Today, there are eight female fire fighters on the Duluth Fire Department, as well as, two female housing inspectors and three female clerks.


Emily Ness

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