Trailblazing deputy chief becomes New Jersey's highest-ranking female fire officer

Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Deputy chief becomes NJ's highest-ranking female fire officer
Jersey City's first female deputy chief Constance Zappella is now New Jersey's highest-ranking professional female firefighter. Toni Yates has the story.

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey -- Jersey City's first female deputy chief is now New Jersey's highest-ranking professional female firefighter.

Four deputy chiefs on the Jersey City Fire Department were promoted at a ceremony inside City Hall on Tuesday, including Constance Zappella.

"As the most diverse city in the nation and the largest municipal fire department in the state, we recognized early on that we needed to add more diverse representation throughout all ranks and so I am especially proud to swear in Deputy Chief Zappella as she is a true trailblazer and an inspiration to our youth in Jersey City and beyond," said Mayor Steven Fulop.

Zappella was born and raised in Jersey City and has deep roots in the community.

"Having grown up within a family where I had many strong female role models, and while attending the Jersey City public school system, I never knew women to be any less capable or thought of them as inferior to men," she said.

She said she tried the corporate world but that wasn't for her. Her uncle gave her the application to apply for the fire department and that was it.

Zapella was the first woman hired to join the Jersey City Fire Department in 2003 and has worked her way up the ranks.

She was the first female captain and then promoted to the first female battalion chief.

"I am no longer the young girl who sought to change a century of outdated tradition, I am now humbled and honored to serve as the highest-ranking professional female fire officer in the state and city where I was born and raised," Zappella said of her historic promotion. "The difference between my success and failure is the network of people I built who supported me throughout my journey."

For the first time in the department's history, minority populations are now represented in every rank department-wide.

There are currently 17 women on the JCFD, including Zappella's sister, Francesca, who was sworn in two years ago.

But her biggest fan, her 8-year-old daughter Erica, said it best:

"She loves being a firefighter, even though it's dangerous, and we always pray for her every night but she goes to work and she's super good at it and she's the most amazing mom in the world," Erica said.

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