When Gina Danos joined the Montegut Fire Department 18 years ago, she had no intention of fighting fires.
“I was always interested in being a paramedic,” she said. “At the same time, I was taking a course in Houma with the National EMS Academy. It was a new program that the state was paying for. The catch was you had to stay in it or the state wouldn’t continue paying for it. I needed some street experience and thought the Fire Department would be a great way to get that experience. That’s how I got my foot in the door.”
Dozens of certifications and trainings later, the 36-year-old has been named as the department’s new fire chief. She is the first woman to lead a fire department in Terrebonne Parish.
“In some ways, it doesn’t seem real, but in other ways, I realize that I’m the chief,” Danos said. “I still catch myself saying, ‘I need to check with chief about that’ and then realize that’s me. It takes some getting used to because we have so much going on right now. It’s something I would not have expected this early in life. You never know what opportunities will come up.”
Danos has served the department since 2004 in multiple roles, including president for the Montegut Volunteers, paramedic, captain and community relations.
She replaces Toby Henry, who joined the Bayou Cane Fire Department in April to become its new EMS chief.
Henry said he couldn’t think of a better successor to lead the Montegut Fire Department.
“She was a great choice for the position and has been with the fire department for many years,” Henry said. “She was an asset as a ranking officer to me and was always somebody intimately involved with the operations for the entire Fire Department. She was somebody who has progressed to a point where she earned this position. I’m extremely proud of Gina. I think she’ll continue doing good things for the community.”
Danos’ promotion comes during a challenging time for the department as the community continues to recover from Hurricane Ida and the ongoing COVID pandemic.
“I want to keep moving the department forward,” she said. “Since the storm and COVID, budgeting isn’t the greatest right now. I want to keep up the manpower and get more people in the community involved. There’s always a spot for volunteers. There’s a place for everybody in the Fire Department."
Danos said she also plans to stay active in the community.
"I coach T-ball during the summer and assist with youth ministry at church and the CASA program," she said. "I feel it's important for people to give back to the community with their time, talents and treasures. I'm truly blessed to be able to assist with different aspects of the community and hope others follow their calling to assist others."
According to the National Fire Protection Association, less than 5% of full-time firefighters in the country are women. Danos said such numbers shouldn't deter women from pursuing their dreams.
“There have been female assistant chiefs in other departments or in different roles but not as fire chief,” she said. “It’s one of those things where I feel all eyes are on me. I always felt it doesn’t matter what my rank or position was. I will continue always doing what I do.
"But it is an honor to become the first female fire chief here. It’s definitely humbling and rewarding at the same time because I’m representing the women. Also, it lets them know that it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. You can do anything you want.”
— Written by Dan Copp at Houma Today, The Courier. Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.