Chief Rosemary Cloud

East Point, Georgia

A new dawn has emerged for the citizens of East Point, Georgia. There’s a new Fire Chief in town and she goes by the name of Rosemary Cloud, the first African American, female Fire Chief ever appointed in the country. The city of East Point is a growing bedroom community. At 18 square miles, it has a population of 40,000 residents.

Rosemary was also born and raised in East Point with the values of family, honesty, hard work, courage and self-discipline, Chief Cloud is the youngest child of a very large family. She accredits the type of person that she is to her older siblings who lead by example. They worked hard and met challenges head on. This great influence helped Rosemary realize that there was nothing in life that she could not achieve.

Encouraged by an ad campaign seeking African-Americans to join the Atlanta Fire Department, as the result of a consent agreement, Chief Cloud began her 22 years of service as a recruit. There she learned the science of fighting fires and made the decision to dedicate her life to helping others as a Firefighter. Over time, she worked her way up the ranks from Firefighter to Chief Officer. Before being appointed Fire Chief of East Point, Rosemary was responsible for providing fire protection and medical emergency services to one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. While the strategy of fighting fires is the same, aircraft rescue and firefighting demands a different type of training and special equipment, such as foam, dry chemical and dry powder, in addition to the water. It was also Rosemary’s responsibility to make sure that personnel met both federal and state training standards.

Currently, Chief Cloud is in charge of 4 stations, has 6 fire trucks and 2 rescue units. Community service is a top priority for her fire department. Rosemary serves many hours at local churches, schools, the senior center and various community groups giving education and prevention presentations. The East Point Fire Department has an intense campaign to educate the community about fire safety. Their firefighters present a safety message each month at community neighborhood meetings. For Rosemary, her greatest challenges as Fire Chief involves firefighter safety, emergency communications and adequate training.

“Because we have such an overwhelming desire to help others when we respond to medical emergencies and rescue victims, we often take extraordinary risks. I have to make sure that I develop and implement policies and procedures that meet safety standards in order to make sure that firefighters don’t put themselves in undue or avoidable danger.”

As a woman, there were physical challenges to overcome in her quest to become a firefighter. Many of the entry level physical exams concentrate heavily on upper body strength that simulated exercises such as ventilating a roof, pulling ceiling tiles, dragging a hose line up flights of stairs or carrying a person out of a building. However, she found that these challenges could be overcome through physical fitness training and practicing techniques.

Another challenge was adjusting to the shared living and sleeping quarters with men. She notes that the future planning of fire stations should include segmented quarters in order to respect the privacy needs of both men and women.

Chief Cloud has an extensive educational background. She attended the National-Louis University where she received her B.S. degree in Applied Behavioral Science. She also attended the Harvard University School of Government, Dillard University and the National Fire Academy.

She currently works with the local schools and youth organizations as a mentor. Rosemary has been featured in Who’s Who in Black Atlanta and received the prestigious Millennium Pacesetter Award from the Atlanta Business League. She was also recognized by the City of Oakland Fire Department and received the Nelson Mandela Medallion. Her professional affiliations include the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Chief, Women in Fire Service, Women Chief Officers, the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, National Association of Black Public Administrators and the National Fire Protection Association.

Chief Cloud’s statements reflect the degree that she was impacted by the 9-11 tragedy. “We should be proud to know that although the attack on America was a horrible act of violence, and although September 11th was a day of terror and fear, it was also a day of courage and heroism.”

Today, Rosemary is still taking the necessary actions to ensure that the City of East Point Fire Department is prepared in times of crisis by providing on going training, collaborating with other fire chiefs, attending Homeland Security Seminars and identifying and supplying the necessary resources for readiness. Also, Chief Cloud is in the process of organizing and training a group of citizens to form a Community Deputy Fire Marshall program that will become part of the Community Emergency Response Team.

Many thanks to Chief Cloud for graciously contributing to the March, 2009 Firefighter Diversity Recruitment Council conference as the Keynote Speaker.

The FIT Story

You don’t have to be in the fire service to make a difference in your community.

“When I moved to Oshkosh from Chicago in August of 2011, I struggled to acclimate to the community.

Not only was it rare to see people who looked like me, but I experienced a number of racial macro aggressions—unfounded traffic stops (no citations or tickets), people asking me if I had, “moved here because of the prison,” local business owners making blatant racists remarks to me and my daughter.

What should have been a new start was looking like a bad decision.

I met a woman at church, Janine Wright, who seemed to understand my challenges. Janine, is a white woman raised in Wisconsin who had married a Black man from Chicago. Together, they raised four biracial children in Oshkosh. During their close to 30-years of residency, her husband and children had similar experiences.

Janine and I began to meet regularly to talk. We had some hard-hitting conversations about race and racial oppression.

When we would return to our respective workplaces and places of influence, to share what we had learned during our informal chats, people seemed very interested. Often, they would say, “You two talked about THAT?” or “I would really like to be a part of a conversation like that.”

It didn’t take long for Janine and I to realize that we could turn these private chats into teachable moments. We started hosting community conversations (now known as Color-Brave Community Conversations) at houses of faith throughout Oshkosh.

Each month, we would show a video clip and have a facilitated conversation about it. The events took off and were very well attended from the start. People wanted to change the narrative around race. They wanted tools to help make the community better.

During our third year of the community conversations, I was approached by Dr. Jennifer Chandler. Jennifer was a regular attendee, and she asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. Jennifer asked, “What’s next?”

I didn’t understand the question. I asked her, what she meant. She said, “You have been having these conversations for the past three years and they are great. At this point, you are preaching to the choir. How do you plan to reach the people who need to be a part of these conversations, but who are not showing up?”

I had to admit to Jennifer that I hadn’t thought about that, and had no idea how to make that happen.

In July of 2014, Jennifer and I sat down at my dining room table and began the process of creating Fit Oshkosh, getting it designated as a nonprofit and creating the curriculum that we would begin to deliver.

On that day, Fit Oshkosh was born with Jennifer as Fit’s co-founder and Janine as our first Board member.”

The rest is history in the making.

Tracey Robertson, Executive Director and Co-Founder