New Omaha female fire chief discusses her career, leading department

6 News sat down with new Omaha Fire Chief Kathy Bossman to discuss her career and the department she now leads.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 4:41 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Omaha Fire Department is officially under new leadership. Omaha’s new Fire Chief, Kathy Bossman, made history last month when she was sworn in as the city’s first female fire chief.

“Becoming the first female fire chief for the City of Omaha is a huge honor and a huge privilege,” said Chief Bossman. “I understand the responsibility and the importance of the decisions that I have to make as the fire chief, but I really am excited for the future of the department and where we can go.”

Since 1997, Chief Bossman has held numerous positions within the department, and she’s excelled at each one. She started her career as a firefighter for a truck company, a ladder company, and then she moved to a medic unit.

“And then I was on an engine company for a number of years, and then as a captain. Now I’m responsible for people as working on a truck company and then a battalion chief.”

She’s led an exciting career and has seen the city from multiple perspectives. Some of her favorite memories are helping to deliver babies: one time in the back of an ambulance in the middle of a blizzard.

“And we ended up having to pull over on the side of the road because the baby was coming and not ideal for mom,” said Chief Bossman. “We, of course, rely on our medical training and I had a great partner at the time and the baby was healthy.”

And then, one night in September 2003, a call came in that she’ll never forget – when Omaha police officer Jason “Tye” Pratt was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

“And that one, I think was important to me because my husband is an Omaha police officer,” said Chief Bossman. “So, it was a very touching, very emotional night, very chaotic in the moment, but I remember it in great detail. And I carry those memories with me throughout my career so that I can reflect on those moments and learn from them and use it in the future.”

She’s learned a lot during her 26-year career. In her new role, she’s looking to fill two assistant fire chief positions, as well as have more open communication with her team.

“I don’t want to just be mediocre at my job,” said Chief Bossman. “I want to face it head-on and really get really good at every aspect of my position. And I’ve done that at every rank that I’ve held, really trying to educate myself, learn every aspect of the job, get to know individuals from other city departments, other organizations in the community that we work with, because I don’t want there ever to be a perception that I was promoted based on my gender.”

While she takes on the new role of “Chief” – her family is cheering her on, the whole way!

“They’ve been very supportive,” said Chief Bossman. “And I’m lucky! My husband, like I said, is an Omaha police officer. He’s been on for over 20 years with Omaha. And I have two daughters who are 18 and 20. And it’s always been important to me to show them that women can take on difficult, nontraditional roles and be successful.”

She wants other young women to know you, too can have it all.

“And as a female in the fire service, you can be a mom, you can be a wife, you can have a partner, you can do all of these exciting things and still have a family,” said Chief Bossman. “And it’s an exciting career.”

Chief Bossman says the fire department is always looking to hire new recruits.

If you’re interested in joining, applications are available on the City’s website.