Former Minneapolis Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek

Bonnie Bleskachek's commendable rise through the ranks of the Minneapolis Fire Department culminated in June 2004, when she was named the city's first female and first openly gay fire chief. Bleskachek was one of the first female firefighters hired by the city of Minneapolis, and in 1992 was part of the first all-woman firefighting team. In 1995, she co-founded the Minnesota Women Fire Fighters Association, which has played an instrumental role in the MFD currently staffing 71 female firefighters. Sadly, there was one four-alarm blaze that Bonnie couldn't put out—the discontent within her department. Early last year, three lawsuits were filed against Bleskachek and the city of Minneapolis by female firefighters alleging discriminatory behavior, sexual harassment, and favoritism. A fourth lawsuit was filed in November by a male firefighter alleging that he was denied advancement because he is male and not gay. The city's investigation into the matter released last December found that 19 specific allegations were sustained, including that Bleskachek was found "making out" with another employee on the floor of a fire station workout room, lounging naked in a hot tub on three separate occasions when MFD employees were present, and "inappropriately touching" employees. That same month, the Minneapolis City Council voted 8-5 to demote Bleskachek to an administrative job.


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