Ahhh… The first day of school. Just like elementary school, middle school, and high school, the first day is nerve wracking. Walking into a strange building, trying to find people to connect with, triple checking your backpack to make sure you have all of the correct supplies. This is what the first day of the Anoka Fire Training Academy was like for me. But instead of shaking in my sneakers, I was shaking in my brand-new pair of medical boots that we were required to wear. My head was asking so many questions, “Would it be a syllabus day? Or was I going to be putting on my full gear running into a burning building?”. Luckily, for all of us, it was an introduction into the fire service and an overview of what we would be doing.
To my surprise, I walked into the classroom noticing that my class was half women, half men. That is what I Iike to see! We went around introducing ourselves by stating our name, what department we are associated with, and why we want to become firefighters. Everyone had inspiring reasons why they wanted to become a firefighter. “I come from a family full of firefighters”, “I had a traumatic experience that made me want to give back to the community”, “I want to be a part of something that is more exciting than my desk job”. My classmates all have careers that will help their team as firefighters. A few ex and current military members who have the bravery and experience to run into a burning building, an IT person with the knowledge and ability to analyze the situation and compute the best way to handle the situation, mechanics who can run the pumps and ensure truck safety…Then there’s me. A social media marketer questioning, “What can I bring to the team?”.
I introduce myself, “Hi, my name is Natalie, and I am not associated with a department. I am here for my full-time job to document what it is like going through the fire academy and share my experience with others. Currently, I have no plans to pursue a job as a firefighter after academy.”. My class seemed interested, a little confused, and semi-excited to be a part of this experience. Their reaction made me feel more welcome.
After we introduced ourselves, we learned about the fire service. How it started and how it has evolved. Here are some of the interesting facts that I learned:
· The city of Boston had experienced major fires in 1653 and 1676 which made the city buy a London pumper. They then hired Thomas Atkins and twelve other men to fight fires. The 13 men are the first paid firefighters in the United States.
· Benjamin Franklin is the one to thank for the fire service. He started the “Bucket Brigade” in Philadelphia circa 1736. It was the first all-volunteer fire company that acted as an assembly line from well to fire.
· In 1818, women began serving as volunteer firefighters. The first recorded female volunteer was an African-American women by the name of Molly Williams. At the time, she was recorded to have worn a calico dress and checkered apron to fires.
· Dalmatians were originally chosen as the firedogs because they formed a strong bond with the fire horses. At the sound of a bell, the dogs would run in front of the station and bark at people trying to bark in front of the firehouse.
· The Maltese Cross that firefighters wear is a symbol of protection and means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his/her life for you. It is seen as a Firefighter’s badge of honor, signifying that he/she works in courage.
At our first day of class, we learned four hours-worth of history about the fire service, and we could have continued on for more. The history made me realize why people have so much respect for those who become a firefighter. Not only are they running into burning buildings, showing up at medical calls, and car crashes like I had thought, they are continuing a legacy that started way back in 1653. They are evolving and enhancing the fire service to solely better their community and protect their neighbors. Firefighters have been and will continue to be a part of the world’s most important heroes.
I challenge you to do your own research on the fire service. What you read and learn might inspire YOU to become a firefighter yourself, if you are not already.