Faulconer declares June 23 Lorraine Hutchinson Day in honor of firefighter

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SAN DIEGO — Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council declared it Lorraine Hutchinson Day in San Diego Tuesday in honor of the trailblazing firefighter and breast cancer survivor.

Hutchinson, who is retiring as a deputy chief after a 25-year career with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, was the first African-American woman to be promoted to engineer, captain, battalion chief and her current position.

She has served as the SDFRD’s health and wellness officer, emergency medical services coordinator and head of logistics, and held leadership positions in several outside organizations.

Her battle with cancer resulted in honors from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which sponsors local events to raise money to fight the disease, and the Padres. She credits a 2012 mammogram for revealing her condition, and now speaks out about early detection.

“I feel that when I stumbled on this career 25 years ago, I hit the lottery,” Hutchinson told the council. “Not in terms of monetary value, though, in terms of finding the career that I am so suited for, and love.”

Hutchinson, 50, said she was working as a medical assistant when a friend — the wife of a firefighter — suggested she try to join the fire department.

Her minority status “times two” didn’t matter because department leaders recognized her potential, she said. She said a merit-based promotion system instituted by former Chief Jeff Bowman resulted in her scoring the highest on the battalion chief’s examination.

“I was finally able to show anyone who had any doubt about me that I deserved to be here,” Hutchinson said.

Bowman’s successor, Tracy Jarman, promoted her to deputy chief.

Hutchinson said the support of the SDFRD rank-and-file was “directly responsible” for her breast cancer survival.