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Shreveport’s 1st female arson investigator: Never say never

May 19, 2019

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — When Janet Ward left an eight-year military career in the late ’90s to be with family in her hometown of Shreveport, the thought of working in public safety didn’t even cross her mind as something she’d do for her next career.

But in a turn of events that changed. Now after having served 19 years on the Shreveport Fire Department, she has become the department’s first female fire arson investigator.

“I don’t ever remember in my life saying I would be a policeman or a fireman. I do believe at some point I probably said I would never do those things. So, God has a funny way. Never say never,” she said laughing.

Shreveport Fire Chief Edwin Wolverton said Ward had mastered the duties of fire inspector and public information officer, and that he has no doubt that she will master the duties of her new job.

“Janet is professional and committed and has proven herself to be worthy of this new journey in her career by completing all the requirements to become a fire investigator,” Wolverton said.

“I am very proud of her and know she will be an outstanding investigator and will fill future leadership roles on the department,” he continued.

Born and raised in Shreveport, Ward graduated from Green Oaks High School in 1989 and joined the U.S. Army the year after.

Around 1998, Ward left the military and returned home to Shreveport to go to school for physical therapy. But that didn’t work out because the school didn’t get its accreditation, she said.

A friend of hers was trying out for the fire department and wanted Ward to join along, too, on the buddy system. Unfortunately, her friend didn’t pass; but Ward did.

In 2000, Ward was one of two females who passed that fire academy, in a class size of about 34 people.

For the next 11 years, Ward would work the “fire line” with jobs and duties ranging from firefighter, hazardous-materials technician and paramedic.

Her next move in the department was in 2011, when she transferred off the fire line and became a fire prevention officer. In that job, her responsibilities included things such as building inspections and public education.

The swap over to fire prevention also allowed her to fulfill more of her responsibilities at her church, she said.

After a few years as a fire prevention officer, Ward was eventually approached and asked if becoming an arson investigator was something she’d be interested in doing.

And it was.

“I was ready to do something (different). I’ve done everything else in fire prevention,” Ward said. “This was the next step for me.”

But in order to hold the position, Ward had to complete additional training requirements.

Last fall, at the age of 47, Ward went through the police academy, which was about 16 weeks in length. Afterward, she completed other specialized courses in fire investigation.

“I’m just thankful. I know I didn’t do this by myself. I know there was a lot of people supporting me, praying with me through this process,” Ward said.

Looking into the future, Ward is considering going to bomb tech school to become certified as a bomb technician.

“That’s something that I’m considering and looking into, to be a bomb tech also,” she said. “So that would encompass everything that this office does.”

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Information from: The Times, http://www.shreveporttimes.com