Santa Clara County Names First Female Fire Chief

Santa Clara County Fire Department promoted its first female chief this month.

Suwanna Kerdkaew, formerly the department's deputy chief of administration, was appointed last week by the county Board of Supervisors. She replaces former chief Tony Bowden, who retired after being on injury leave.

Kerdkaew is a 20-year fire department veteran who worked in the biotechnology industry before becoming a firefighter, after volunteering for organizations like Habitat for Humanity and at hospitals in San Francisco.

She assumed her new role on April 20 as the 10th chief and first female chief in the department’s 75-year history.

Since she was hired in 2002, Kerdkaew has served as firefighter, engineer, paramedic, captain, battalion chief, deputy chief and assistant chief. She guided the department through complex situations, such as multiple deployments to major wildfires across the state.

“I am happy to appoint Suwanna Kerdkaew as the new Santa Clara County Fire Chief,” Mike Wasserman, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said at the April 19 supervisors’ meeting. “Her extensive experience within the department made her an ideal candidate for the role. I have no doubt that her seasoned decision-making ability and dedication to interagency cooperation will help keep Santa Clara County residents safe.”

“Chief Kerdkaew has been serving within county fire in times of great challenges – such as the SCU Lightning Complex fires in 2020 – while also adjusting to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“I am honored and humbled to be appointed to this position,” Kerdkaew said. “I am committed to excellence and progressive decision making, as Santa Clara County Fire Department continues to address the evolving challenges that are faced by our county and state.”


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