Crystal Murphy served as a firefighter and EMT with Lacey Fire District 3 for nine years.
Crystal Murphy, a Lacey firefighter who mentored hundreds of girls interested in the fire service, died on Christmas Day. She was 40.
Lacey Fire District 3, where Murphy was a firefighter and EMT for nine years, announced her death earlier this week. Her cause of death was not released.
“She was a very, very dedicated public servant and a role model for firefighters, particularly women, in the fire service everywhere,” Lacey Fire Chief Steve Brook said Friday.
Murphy was known for her work as an advocate for diversifying the fire service. Nationally, about 4 percent of firefighters are women, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. Murphy wanted to change that.
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“Young girls aren’t taught that they can do a lot of things we do in the fire service,” said Kris Larson, a Los Angeles Fire Department battalion chief. “We wanted to show them that being a firefighter, which isn’t necessarily seen as a woman’s job, is an important passion.”
Larson met Murphy at Camp Blaze, a weeklong camp for girls ages 16-19 who want to explore a career in the fire service. Murphy was a Camp Blaze crew leader in 2014 and 2016 and joined the board of directors in January. While at the camp, Murphy showed a passion for advocating for at-risk youth, the nonprofit said in a statement.
“This loss to the fire service comes unexpectedly and ripples far beyond the borders of the Lacey Fire District,” Camp Blaze said.
At the camps, Murphy was known as “Murph Dawg” — a lot of people didn’t even know her first name because everyone used that nickname instead, Larson said — and she was the one who got everyone excited for the day.
“She would be screaming and yelling and hooting and hollering,” Larson said. “She had a unique ability to connect with people. You knew that if you were to pick up the phone, she would be there for you. No matter what.”
Using Camp Blaze as a model, Murphy helped start the Capital Metro Fire Girls Camp, a two-day program in Olympia. The camp’s focus was more on leadership than firefighting, said Ryan Cox, a Lacey fire captain, but her advocacy helped show more girls that they could pursue that career. She was also the first female member of the Thurston County Special Operations Rescue Team.
“She really was in love with the job in the fire department,” he said. “I have a feeling there will be more women who join because (Murphy) gave her support.”
Murphy served in the U.S. Navy and was deployed to Afghanistan twice, according to a story published by ThurstonTalk.
She is survived by her wife and two children.
Memorial details are being finalized, but Cox said a service is scheduled for Jan. 14 in Thurston County.