Trailblazing Des Moines firefighter retiring after nearly 33 years on the job

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DES MOINES, Iowa – A trailblazer in the Des Moines Fire Department who dedicated her life to improving the lives of others is hanging up her helmet.

Captain Linda Sommerfeld is retiring from the department after nearly 33 years on the job. When she was hired in 1989 she was just the fourth woman to join the department. Since then, she’s become the only member of the department to be certified as a paramedic, an EMS instructor, a dispatcher and part of both the HazMat and technical rescue teams.

We interviewed her back in 2013 about being a trailblazer, and she was humble in her responses.

“It’s not an easy, simple job. It’s not for everybody, and it’s especially not for every woman,” said Sommerfeld. “I don’t feel like I’m a pioneer by any means. I’m just … I’m a firefighter.”

Des Moines Fire Chief John TeKippe has high praise for Sommerfeld’s and her accomplishments.

“The impact she has had on the Des Moines Fire department goes beyond her professionalism and technical skills,” TeKippe said. “She has taken a true interest in all those under her direction to take every opportunity to provide leadership, advocacy, mentorship, and guidance for their personal and professional growth, development, and success.”

TeKippe also said, “She has been an ambassador for those outside the department and a leader, teammate, and friend for those within, and for that we are most appreciative.”

Captain Sommerfeld’s daughter also wanted to make sure everyone knows that her mom was high school prom queen and she won the rolling pin toss at the Iowa State Fair in the 70s — and that she’s a great mom.

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