Tonya Lee Burns

Department
Los Angeles County
Deceased
August 12, 2009

Burns.Tonya.Lee_Photo RESIZEDTonya Burns broke new ground for female firefighters. A natural athlete, she earned scholarships in track and basketball at UCLA and worked alongside teammates Jackie Joyner and Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo-Jo) to prepare for the 1984 USA Olympic trials. After graduation, she followed her father’s footsteps in the fire service. She started her career with the Oxnard Fire Department in 1985 and later joined the LA County Fire Department in 1988, making her the department’s first African American female firefighter. In 1988, she helped found the Black Female Firefighters Association of Southern California. Tonya’s life was cut short at 49, after contracting job-related breast cancer.

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