Less than 4% of our nation’s firefighters are women, and more than half of paid fire departments have never hired a female firefighter. Well, that just changed in Milford, CT where Maureen Hickey has become the first female firefighter to join the Milford Fire Department.
Firefighting wasn’t Maureen’s intended career. After graduating from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, she had a lot of trouble finding a job in her field, and ended up taking a clerical position at a medical office. Maureen realized quickly that being in an office wasn’t for her.
“For me, it is not just about being a great female firefighter. It is simply about being a great firefighter.”
The new firefighter credits her turn in career choice to her mother, who brought the idea of firefighting to her attention. “My mom saw an advertisement in a local newspaper about a fire department that was offering a test for possible employment. Before that day, I hadn’t ever thought about firefighting as a career path, but I knew as soon as she said it that it was a definite possibility. I have been an athlete my entire life, and being active and part of a team was very important to me, so it made sense.”
After spending some time volunteer firefighting with her local community to be sure it was something she really wanted to go forward with, Maureen began training. “I knew that firefighting was my passion. It not only brought together two very important aspects of my life into one place – teamwork and an active lifestyle – but it allowed me to get in touch with the community and help people in their times of need. From there, I continued on to pursue that passion.”
Maureen took the fire department tests over a period of approximately 4 years before she received the call from the Milford Fire Department offering her a position. As a probationary firefighter, Maureen hasn’t received a permanent assignment yet; she is currently working “detail,” which is a usual route for new firefighters that gives them the opportunity to learn the different stations, apparatus, and areas of the city.
On being the first female firefighter in her department… “It’s certainly a wonderful feeling and I am very excited to be a part of this department. For me, it is not just about being a great female firefighter. It is simply about being a great firefighter.”
Maureen attributes much of her success to the unlimited support she received from family and friends. As for advice to other young women wanting to pursue fire service as a career, she says, “Never give up. This field is extremely demanding and requires both physical and mental strength.” She added, “There will be days when it seems out of reach, and those are the days where you need to step back and look at the big picture and assure yourself that it is possible and well worth your efforts.” She concluded, “If it’s something you want bad enough, you can and will achieve it.”
As for this WYSK’s personal mantra, it’s one we firmly believe in. “I’ve grown up with the mentality of never having the word can’t in my vocabulary. Something may be very difficult, but never say you can’t do it!”
Statistic via National Fire Protection Association