Meet Firefighter Samanta
Who says girls can’t fight fires? Meet 20 year-old Samanta aka “Sammie” from the suburbs of New York. Sammie talks about her passion for her career and how she overcame obstacles to do what she loves. She also offers some great advice for future women firefighters.
GCW: What is your main passion and describe when you first became interested in it.
Sammie: Firefighting! I’ve always wanted to do something out of the ordinary with myself, something challenging! My mother once suggested volunteering in the community and the idea took off from there. Some of my friends were members of other local departments and they helped me get started, from that point on, I guess you can say I caught the ‘bug’.
GCW: Have you ever been injured or encountered any setbacks while pursuing your dream?
Sammie: Right at the the time I joined, I had a little ‘encounter’ with a car, it was nothing big, but my foot was useless for a good month. Other than that, during training and calls, I often strain my back and neck and have to see my chiropractor. The only other major thing was my knee, over time I’ve put enough stress on it and developed water build up.
GCW: What is your favorite tool, piece of equipment or (whatever) that you use?
Sammie: I love the halligan tool! During one really great training session I tore apart the wall with just that tool, and made a pretty great doorway! The runner up is a pair of hydraulic cutters, they get pretty heavy but Ive found a great way for myself to keep them up and working, I prop my knee up against the car (or just get low enough) and rest the body of the tool right a the edge of my knee, it takes a lot of the weight off. My favorite ‘big tool’, or truck rather, is our tower ladder. A few months ago I became a certified flyer and I absolutely love it!
GCW: Do you have a favorite event or memory?
Sammie: Definitely the first time I had a line into a building. The truck I rolled up with was first due, my best friend grabbed the nozzle, and I was backing him up. We went in the front door, down the basement stairs and the fire started licking out from the basement over the ceiling of the staircase…it was something I’d never forget, needless to say I didn’t sleep that night!
GCW: That sounds exciting! What are some of the highlights of your career?
Sammie: Any fire I’ve been to, it’s a different experience every time!
GCW: What challenges have you faced as a female firefighter?
Sammie: In the beginning, some of the guys just took me as a complete joke, I felt really left out for a while. I’ve had some comments made to me that really upset me, I’ve even thought of quitting a few times! But I became close with some great people that constantly encouraged me and told me not to give up! Every time I felt like leaving I’d think about how great it feels to get on the truck and respond to a call. Even now, I know there are still some people that think I don’t belong here but overall I think I’ve shown how much I care and want to do this.
GCW: Your passion definitely shines through. Have you ever been told you ‘can’t’ because you are a girl? What did you do about it?
Sammie: My grandmother has actually told me that! Shes very old-school and she doesn’t think it’s how a lady should behave, but I think shes grown to accept that I’m a little rough around the edges and I really do have a passion for this. Unfortunately it’s happened within the firehouse as well, during a party one of the guys must have had a bit too much too drink and made a really nasty comment…I pretty much let it go…at least it never happened again!
GCW: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?
Sammie: Making it this far! Between feeling incompetent and realizing that I’m not as physically strong as the guys, I’ve felt like a failure a lot…but somehow I kept myself going (a lot of credit to my friends also!). Another thing is that I think I proved to at least some people that I can do this, I thrived on showing the ones that knew I couldn’t do it…that I can!
GCW: Your persistance has paid off for you….so how would you encourage other girls who are interested in firefighting?
Sammie: Join, and be prepared to struggle. You have to hold your own, and remember in this field, talking doesn’t mean much, you have to show what you’re made off. At the same time be realistic about your limits. Very often I’ll keep going until my hearts beating like a rabbit, I guess I look pale because I’ve been told ‘it’s time for you to take a break’. Your limitations are not your weaknesses, you have to work with what you’ve got. I love training because it helps me figure out what I can do and how much I can do… when we’re training rescues I like work with my partner to drag out the dummies (some of them can weight 180-200 lbs!) that way I know which way is most efficient for me
GCW: What other interests do you have?
Sammie: I love Yoga! Its incredibly relaxing. I’ve also always enjoyed writing and art…it brings out the softer side in me.
GCW: Sammie – thanks for taking the time to tell us about your fantastic career and overcoming the challenges and limitations you have faced as a female firefighter. Girls Can’t WHAT? wishes you the best in all that you do!
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