For Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting the women of the Washington State Patrol (WSP). Get to know Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Esther Hernandez. She has been with the State Fire Marshal’s Office for 17 years, though her career with the WSP began 20 years ago as an Office Assistant 3 within the WSP Field Operations Bureau (FOB).

What is your current position within the Fire Protection Bureau (FPB)?

I have been in my current position as a Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal for 4 ½ years as the supervisor for the Education, Enforcement, and Analytics (EEA) Section. My responsibilities include directing, planning, and leading the Fire Sprinkler Contractor Licensing and Certification Program, the Fireworks Licensing Program, the Fire Safe Cigarette Certification Program, the National Fire Incident Reporting System Program, Community Risk Reduction, and Public Information. As an Agency Representative and Incident Business Advisor for the SFMO on Mobilization incidents, I am responsible to act as a Resource Coordinator for Mobilization requests and agency point of contact for Mobilization incidents, maintain an extensive knowledge of ICS and the CEMP on both state and county emergency management functions, and train new Mobilization field staff.

What brought you to the WSP, specifically the FPB?

My dad worked for another state agency and encouraged me to get a state job. After starting out as an Office Assistant, there was a job opening in the FPB, which was a promotional opportunity for me.

What is your proudest moment while working for the FPB?

I was proud to be able to reallocate two of my section members to Assistant Deputy State Fire Marshals. They absolutely deserved that recognition and rank.

What challenges have you faced before obtaining your current position?

Like any position, there is going to be some adversity. There aren’t a lot of women in this profession, so I know I’m changing the culture and perspective of women in the fire service.

What do you want to accomplish while in your position?

There are numerous things I want to accomplish in my position and time within the agency.  First, I want to meet my section and division goals. Additionally, I want to continue to be a supportive supervisor and encourage my people to grow and learn in their professional lives.  That includes supporting my team and creating a cohesive unit that has a great work ethic and morale.

Last, the agency has taken a big step forward with our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. As a minority myself, it’s really important that we continue to make progress and break any molds. I know I can help do that.

How do you celebrate equality in the workplace?

We acknowledge different and new religious and cultural holidays, including the ones that I’ve never heard of.  It’s been a great and interesting time learning about the different celebrations.  I also encourage feedback and open discussion on DEI topics.

I engage with my team and ground my efforts in empathy and honesty while communicating with transparency – especially on difficult topics.