By Jamie Leary

GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – The City of Golden welcomed its newest fire chief in nearly 20 years and the first female fire chief in the Denver Metro area. On Monday, Chief Alicia Welch was sworn in and surrounded by family as well as friends.

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(credit: CBS)

For Welch, that’s what the ceremony was all about.

“I think I learned very early what it means to be a public servant.” Welch said, pointing to her parents in the front row.

CBS4’s Jamie Leary interviews Alicia Welch. (credit: CBS)

Welch grew up in California where both parents worked in law enforcement. She knew she would serve her community in some capacity, but never imagined she would be sitting as the head of the Golden Fire Department.

Welch moved to Golden with her wife in 2017 to retire and enjoy the outdoors. She says she would occasionally drive by the Golden Fire Department and think about her career in Los Angeles.

(credit: CBS)

“I found myself, when I drove by the fire station, I would look in and wonder what the folks were doing today. Many times I would see the firefighters training at Clear Creek and would have my wheels spinning of all the days that I trained.”

It was a literal sign that changed her path in Golden entirely.

(credit: CBS)

“I was driving home from my hike, and I saw a volunteer firefighter sign out in front of the station up there and when I saw that sign it was like a switch in me flipped.”

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When she inquired about a volunteer position with the training captain, she told Welch there was about to be a vacancy, only not as a volunteer.

“She told me that the fire chief was retiring next week, and she told me that the application period was ending on that Friday.”

Welch says the interview process was intense, but says she worked hard to earn the role.

She has a master’s degree in homeland security and graduated from the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Point Leadership Academy.

Alicia Welch (credit: CBS)

Over the past 27 years with the Los Angeles Fire Department, she worked in recruitment to improve workplace diversity. In 2009, she was selected for one of three fellowships to work with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Association to Develop a national preparedness model.

“We’re going to take a lot of experience that I have from FEMA, and we’re going to bring that here to Golden to help support the business and residential community.”

(credit: CBS)

She says with a lighter call volume than she had in Los Angeles, she will have more time to work directly with local businesses, faith-based organizations, schools and residents… even on the things that don’t involve preparing for wildfires.

“We’ll have time to talk to kids about wearing helmets and not crashing their bikes or Clear Creek behind me, you know it’s full in the summer, talking about water safety and smoke alarms…” Welch continued. “It’s those kinds of things I look forward to doing so we can prevent people from hurting themselves in this great environment that we have here.”

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Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.