This weekend, being Thanksgiving, has me thinking a lot about the things for which I am thankful. I am obviously incredibly thankful for my amazing family, but I am also very thankful for a happy accident…
Firefighting as a whole for me has been somewhat of an accident. I meet people on the job now who are third generation firefighters (Zach 😛 ) or people who grew up knowing exactly what they wanted to do their entire life, people who have never even questioned their life path.
And not going to lie, I am a little jealous of these people.
I never grew up wanting to be a firefighter (mostly because I honestly didn’t think it was ever going to be an option for me). It wasn’t exactly a female-oriented job, and I never had a lot of exposure to people in the fire service. The only firefighter I knew growing up was the father of a set of twins with whom I was friends, and I remember thinking it looked like an awesome job, but impossible for me.
I was 18 the very first time that I put on a uniform for work; I had been hired as a park ranger for Ontario Parks and wearing a uniform gave me a sense of purpose that had been missing from my life. I loved my job, but it was not quite as fulfilling as I could hope for since I was looking for a job to spend my life doing. But I knew from day one that I wanted a job where I could serve the public. Since then, I have tried on different uniforms in different positions, trying to find the job that left me feeling fulfilled and satisfied. I tried ski patrol, and while I loved that volunteer position, it was still not quite right. I tried community policing as a precursor to applying to the RCMP, but enforcement still wasn’t quite the service role I was looking for.
When I moved to Kananaskis, AB, I didn’t know anybody, it was the quiet shoulder season and I was honestly more than a little lonely. I wanted a way to feel like part of the community. So when I heard that Kananaskis Emergency Services was hiring paid-on-call firefighters, I thought about it long and hard. The commitment that they were asking for was huge (especially because at that point I wasn’t planning on staying here long term, whoops!LOL), but so was the training and sense of community that they were offering. At the suggestion, and basically a physical push from my boss, I submitted an application.
The best thing that has ever happened to me was joining the Kananaskis fire department. Training to be a firefighter taught me just how much I was capable of, both as an individual and as part of an incredible team. The people that work with have changed my life. I pushed all my personal limits and was astounded by how much I could achieve. I overcame my claustrophobia, pushed through my mild fear of heights and was inspired by the incredible people I work with to get into shape.
My team encouraged me to be the very best version of myself, and to me, that is what firefighting is all about: working with incredible people and making each other better so that we can serve our community to the best of our ability.
This summer, I was lucky enough to start working another job as a firefighter, this time doing wildland firefighting. This was, surprisingly enough, another ‘accident’. I happened to meet the owner of a wildland company while over for a BBQ at the house of a mutual friend. He mentioned that they were looking for people with wildland certs and firefighting experience, and suggested I put in a resume. A week later I found myself as part of a wildland engine crew.
Through all these happy ‘accidents’ I have met people who have come to form a second family for me. The sense of community within my firefighting world is overwhelming. I have come to love these people like blood relatives. They have been my support system through some tough times and continue to be there for me, no questions asked.
While I am incredibly thankful for my past, and the people who have helped me get to where I am now, I am also thankful for the opportunities that I am building for the future.
Initially, firefighting may have been an accident, but every decision I have made since has been made with intention: the intention of becoming a full-time firefighter and the best first responder that I am capable of being.
I have just completed my Emergency Medical Responder course, the first step on the path to me getting my PCP (Primary Care Paramedic) certificate. I have applied for PCP school for next year and look forward to being able to offer a higher level of patient care on medical calls. I love the challenging nature of medical calls and have known that this is an area in which I wished to develop my skills since my ski patrolling days.
I have also applied to a full-time fire department, which shall remain unnamed on here. Their process is long and they have a large pool of excellent applicants, but I am excited for the challenge and experience of going through their application process, even if I do not get hired the first time around.
Life has been nothing short of a thrill ride these last couple of years. I am thankful for the people who have made everything possible.
I am thankful for the people who have offered their unconditional love and support.
I am thankful for the beautiful place I call home, and the people I share it with.
Everything that I am thankful for really comes down to the people in my life. Because it doesn’t matter what you do for work, where you live, or what you have, if you do not have incredible people to share it with.
Oh and I am very thankful for happy accidents 😉