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A little bit about Chelsie McWhorter

A photo of Chelsie McWhorter

I am a 4th year doctoral student in the Department of Geography at the University of California Santa Barbara. My research focuses on firefighter navigation and the culture of the fire service. My previous academic research has been on firefighter navigation, the cultural landscape and women's roles in policing.

I am also a 14 year veteran of the fire service and currently serve in the rank of Fire Lieutenant. I've worked as a part of engine, truck and heavy rescue companies. In addition to direct service to the community through fire suppression and rescue, I enjoy speaking to the public about fire safety and fire prevention. I'm passionate about encouraging women and girls to consider careers in the fire service and never pass up an opportunity to talk to them when I'm in my turnout gear or uniform!

I invite you to explore my site, learn about my harebrained research ideas and engage with me on Twitter or Linkedin.

Bridging the Fire Service & Geography

My research focus is on building bridges between geography and the fire service. Whilst recognizing that a vast amount of research already exists on fire ecology, fire protection, the wild-land urban interface and many fire related topics, my interest is on the fire service itself and the training that we do. I hope to use my experience as a firefighter and my training as a scientist to better understand topics previously absent in academia, with the ultimate goal of providing firefighters better training and more representation in the academy. I am excited to see an increasing number of partnerships between academia and the fire service, and I hope to be a part of that continuing trend.


Career and volunteer fire departments not only put out fires, we also provide a plethora of rescue services.  Since 83% of all fire departments in the US are mostly or all volunteer, many of us are protecting our neighbors as a secondary career.


Geography is a broad discipline that studies phenomena with a spatial perspective.


The fire service (not fire research) has historically been absent from academic studies. As a firefighter with the opportunity to attend graduate school, I’m excited to explore the intersection of geography and the fire service.


Fire service training is often location specific and rooted in what has worked historically. I hope to use my research to make training more effective and relevant to the modern fire service.

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"Two things firefighters hate; the way things are now and change." - Chief (Ret.) Alan Brunacini
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