Winston-Salem Fire Department’s longest-serving female firefighter retires after 30 years

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Capt. Phyllis Heitman, the fire department's longest-serving female fire fighter, retired this week after a little more than 30 years.

"I started from the ground up," said Phyllis, who took the job after working 10 years in day care. "My daddy had been a fireman and I knew what it was like and bam, I've been here 30 years."

But she's not retiring alone. Her husband, Division Chief Jeffrey Heitman, is retiring after 34 years of fighting fires, 19 of which were with the Winston-Salem Fire Department.

"I actually started out riding on the back of a fire truck," said Jeffrey, who noted that a lot has changed in those decades, especially the equipment. "Technology has really changed the way we do the job."

But what has never changed was their love to serve.

"That's what we are here for," Jeffrey said. "To make a difference in someone's life that is having a bad day."

The couple plans to stay busy, helping aging parents and loving on their new grandson.