Firefighter, Engineer, and Paramedic, Palm Springs Fire Department
As the only woman serving on the Palm Springs Fire Department, Katharine Johnson, also known as “KJ,” has a lot of big brothers — 54, to be exact.
Obtaining the position of firefighter, engineer, and paramedic was not easy.
“It is a very competitive profession,” says Johnson, who wanted to stay near her family in Southern California and moved to Palm Springs in 2007 after completing her medic training. “I love helping people and going to work every day.”
Johnson notes that the work can be difficult. “My defining moment was on my third shift as a firefighter and being sent to the Harris Fire in San Diego for 10 days,” Johnson says. “I was up for the first three days without sleep. You don’t even think about sleep, you just think about trying to help save people’s property and belongings.”
After five years in the job, Johnson was promoted to engineer and was voted president of the Palm Springs Firemen’s Association. She enjoys doing community outreach and fundraisers, twice a year taking time out of her schedule to take children who are victims of burn injuries to camp.
“I think it’s an honor to do this job; you just try to do your best.”
What Johnson hears often is that she does not look like a firefighter.
“I like being a girl when I’m not on the job — getting my nails and hair done," she says. "I believe if you work hard you can be anything you want to be. You don’t have to fit into a specific box.”
VIDEO: Katharine Johnson is a coffee aficionado.