Arcadia Fire Department makes history
ARCADIA -- The announcement by Arcadia Fire Department Chief Hiram Rutherford at the Feb. 18 city council meeting was over shadowed by the subsequent heated argument over grants and lawsuits, but the Arcadia Fire Department made a little bit of local history last month when it hired its first female firefighter/paramedic -- Rebecca Peterson.
"Becca" as Peterson prefers to be called, lives with her husband Doug and family in North Port. She is a mother of six -- three boys and three girls ranging in age from six to 16.
Born in Pekin, Illinois, not far from Peoria, Peterson came to Florida in 1980 and graduated from Venice High School in 1987.
Now in her early thirties, Becca says she is a late bloomer professionally.
"It was actually through a near tragedy that I became so compelled to enter into the fire service," she recalls. "About six or seven years ago, my former husband's niece nearly drowned. She luckily has recovered fully. Being in the trauma room and watching her recovery and dealing with the paramedics and fire personnel on the scene, being with them, they were just so compassionate and stayed by her side and followed up on her."
Peterson was motivated by the experience to try and become a paramedic/firefighter. "I had always been interested in the medical field," she says. "I did volunteer work when I was a teenager."
"I'd never gone to college because I had my daughter. I stayed home and raised my children. I had always thought that being a paramedic/firefighter was a college career. I'd never looked into it, but after that happened with my niece, I said I don't know what I have to do, but I've got to be a paramedic/firefighter." She went to the Sarasota County EMS.
"I became a volunteer and was able to ride along with them in the ambulance. I first had to go through emergency medical technician school. That took about four months. Then I went right into the fire academy, driving to Tampa two days a week for seven months. It was pretty grueling training and very demanding physically. Academically, I rose to the top of my class, so I didn't have any problem that way. I had to work really hard for it."
After graduating from the fire academy, Peterson went into paramedic school which she completed in June of 2002.
The Arcadia Fire Department position, which began Feb. 18, is her first job as a paramedic/firefighter. She's currently working the A-Shift under Capt. Harvey Sweeting. "I'm very excited," Peterson says, and she shows it.
Peterson says she still stays in close touch with those same Sarasota County paramedics that treated her niece.
"They have seen me go from being a private citizen to becoming one of their compadres. They were just a true inspiration."
When asked what was the most difficult part of the job is for her, Peterson said, "Nothing really jumps out at me as being difficult. I feel very natural about this. I can't imagine doing anything else in my entire life that would fit me perfectly to my personality than being a firefighter/paramedic. I absolutely love it."
Is it difficult coping with a full time job and six children? She said her husband Doug, who works for a subcontractor at Stone Crafters in Arcadia, deserved all the credit for helping with the children.
"My husband is wonderful. He's is looking into going into the fire service as well."
Peterson is not the first female firefighter/paramedic in DeSoto County. The county fire department hired its first woman nearly two decades ago. Her name was Kathy Lindsey, according to Sally Platt, of the DeSoto County's public safety department. Lindsey has long since left the county fire service and moved out of the area.
Why did it take the city so long to hire a woman? Low turnover played a part, say some folks. Apparently city firefighter/paramedics were so contented at the AFD that there was negligible turnover in the department over the years and few openings. City executive assistant Joyce O'Steen says she can't remember that a qualified woman ever applied for an opening with the department.
You can contact John Lawhorne at firstname.lastname@example.org
By JOHN LAWHORNE
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03-20-2003, 08:13 AM #1
Arcadia Fla--Fire Dept makes history--Hire 1st Female Firefighter09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
"Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
03-20-2003, 09:52 AM #2
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
Congratulations Becca and welcome to a rewarding career. Keep your chin up and give em hell!!!
03-20-2003, 10:28 AM #3
- Join Date
- Feb 2003
- Hopefully, a parallel universe where my location doesn't keep getting deleated.
You Go Girl!!TUTUM TE ROBORE REDDAM
In Valor, There Is Hope.
03-20-2003, 10:03 PM #4
- Join Date
- Dec 2002
- Glendale AZ
"Why did it take the city so long to hire a woman?"
Most likely because there were several hundred men who were more qualified.
Isn't in interesting that out of 134 men who competed in last years firefighter challenge 131 of them scored BETTER than the woman who WON the womens division?
Not to mention the fact that women and men compete seperately. If women are just as able as men then why do they not compete together?????????????
03-21-2003, 02:10 PM #5
Waiter!! Bring weaverffemt a little cheese to go with his whine and sour grapes
First of all, you are comparing apples to oranges when you try to link the difference in the Combat Challenge results between female and male competitors, with the acceptance of a female applicant to the fire service. Argue the pros or cons of both, but do not try to equate the two separate subjects!
Now, as to your comment about several hundred men being more qualified than the successful female candidate, I say "Prove it"! If you are going to make an inflammatory comment like that, have something to back it up! There was nothing in the article that stated this woman beat out a field of several hundred men, just that academically she was at the top of her class at the fire academy. In order for her to be successful, not only did this candidate need to pass the physical fitness tests, she had to pass the academic tests and go through at least one interview process, the same as any of the male applicants. She took the tests, she passed the tests, she qualified for the job, she was hired, end of story!
Weaverffemt, cry yourself a river, build a bridge and get over it!! If a person can do the job, whether male, female, black, white, or green with purple polka dots, then let them do the job. In an emergency, no one cares who is there to save them, just that help has arrived.
Let's save the discussion regarding the Combat Challenge for another time, shall we?
Last edited by CommDiva; 03-23-2003 at 08:43 AM.Communications Diva of the IACOJ, and proud member of the WOT!
Bagpipes: They put the fun back in funerals!!
03-21-2003, 03:42 PM #6
Oh yeah, and one more thing...
Last edited by CommDiva; 03-21-2003 at 03:49 PM.Communications Diva of the IACOJ, and proud member of the WOT!
Bagpipes: They put the fun back in funerals!!
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