How Susanne Shively Broke Boundaries as a Female Firefighter in Delaware

Susanne Shively broke boundaries as a female firefighter with Odessa Fire Company. Now she’s appearing in a calendar representing volunteers throughout the state./Courtesy of Foschi Studio

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To say the Delaware firefighting world wasn’t ready when 14-year-old Susanne Shively showed up in 1978 to volunteer would be an understatement. Back then, Delaware Fire School didn’t even have changing rooms for girls.

But that didn’t stop Shively. When some members of the Odessa Fire Company hazed her, teased her and even tampered with her equipment, she dug in her heels and set her own goals.

Susanne Shively
Courtesy of Foschi Studio

If the guys were doing it, so was she. Over time, they developed mutual trust and respect, and Shively eventually was named Rescue Captain and Fireman of the Year.

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Now she’s found another way to help firefighters locally and across the country. Shively is featured in the Delaware’s Finest Volunteer Firefighter Calendar for 2020; she’s showcased in June and September alongside her classic Corvette. She’ll also be included in a national calendar to benefit firefighters fighting cancer.

“She managed to outdo a lot of people,” says Jeff Foraker, Shively’s friend and ex-husband. The two met in the hallway of a burning building.

In addition to Fireman of the Year, Shively’s firefighting honors included representing Odessa at the National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium in Washington, D.C. In her career, she rose to rank of Rescue Captain and became a life member in 1998 after answering calls for more than 20 years.

“I think that’s pretty cool,” she says, adding that she hopes she’s created a legacy for her daughters, granddaughters and other women in fire service today.

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