By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 21, 2018 at 10:45 AM

Earlier this month, Milwaukee Fire Department reached a notable landmark when, on the night of Nov. 9, for the first time in the city’s history, a section of the city was protected by the watchful eyes of an all-woman crew.

Engine 9 firefighters Melanie Madden and Jessica Olson – based out of Fire Station 9 at 4141 W. Mill Rd. – were joined on that historic shift by Captain Sharon Purifoy, Lt. Belinda Bradley and firefighter Kendria Donaldson, who are normally assigned to other companies.

Bradley and Purifoy have nearly two decades’ experience with Milwaukee Fire Department, according to Lt. Michael Ball, who serves as MFD’s community relations director. The other three firefighters all came on the job together three years ago.

"Over the past several years," Ball said, "Milwaukee has been slowly growing the ranks of women serving on the Milwaukee Fire Department."

Currently, 25 of 708 sworn members of the department are women.

Station 9 is located in MFD’s Seventh Battalion and is also quarters for MED 4 paramedics unit.

Purifoy, of Engine 38, is featured in this year's Ignite the Spirit Fund Milwaukee firefighters benefit calendar, co-sponsored by OnMilwaukee.

An event with some of the calendar models is scheduled for tonight at Camp Bar in the Third Ward. Details are here.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.