Jona Olsson

Jona Olsson

Assistant Chief

Jona is the founder and director of cultural bridges to justice, offering cultural diversity programs for non-profit organizations in the U. S., Canada, UK and Australia since 1986. She is currently the Assistant Chief for Health & Safety of the Latir Volunteer Fire Department in northern New Mexico, having stepped down as Fire & EMS Chief after 15 years. Her education, travel, trade union membership, work in the arts, the trades and emergency services, college faculty positions, and continued social activism provide a rich background for justice education.

Bringing her two passions together – emergency service and social justice – Jona offers workshops and keynotes to individual departments and brigades, as well as, regional and national conferences. Each program is specially designed to meet the unique needs and challenges of fire and emergency medical service organizations. Since 1986, hundreds of college, community, emergency service and social change groups have participated in cultural bridges to justice programs.

Jona was honored as the 2012 Volunteer Chief of the Year by the IAFC, Fire Chief Magazine and Pierce Manufacturing at the 2012 IAFC Fire Rescue International Conference. In 2015 she received the first Ambassador Award from Fire Service Women Ontario.

She has been a recent presenter for the IAFF (International Assn of Firefighters) Ernest A. “Buddy” Mass Human Relations Conference (2008, 2010, 2012, 2016), IAFC (International Assn of Fire Chiefs FRI 2010-2018), i-women, FDIC, Fire Service Women Ontario, Canadian Fire Chiefs Assn (2014), Fire Brigades Union (UK), London Fire Brigade, Edinburgh Fire Brigade, Ottawa Fire Department, Maryland Fire Rescue Institute (MFRI), Australasian Fire and Emergency Authorities Council (AFAC), Women and Firefighting Australasia (WAFA), and many other fire and EMS departments and conferences in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australasia.

In 2007 she was the keynote speaker at the United Kingdom’s national conference “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality in the Fire Service,” the world’s first uniform service sponsored conference on this topic. Jona was invited back to the UK in 2008 for a 21 day speaking tour on homophobia / transphobia and sexism in fire and emergency services.

Jona is an active member and instructor for the Enchanted Circle Regional Fire Assn in Northern New Mexico. She is a member of the Volunteer/Combination Officers Section of the IAFC, and served 6 years on the IAFC Human Relations Committee. Jona currently leads the national project, “United in Service – Inclusion and Diversity, and our Mission” a multi-year effort developing leadership training and resources for building more inclusive and diverse emergency service organizations.

The philosophy guiding all cultural bridges to justice training is that all justice work is both personal and institutional, and a lifelong process that must continue until diversity in every workplace and every community is seen as “value added.” Jona believes that until the fire and emergency medical service reflects the diversity of its communities, the mission of the fire service – providing truly quality customer service – cannot be fulfilled.

Following her workshops, participants offer high praise, appreciation for Jona’s frank, open approach and sense of humor, and most importantly a renewed commitment to working toward justice.

Jona lives in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico, US, with her wife, Jane, and several rescued, 4-footed friends.