'Lives on Fire' Firefighter Diley Greiser Shares Her Journey

Firefighter/Paramedic Diley Greiser traveled a long road to achieve her career, which will now be featured on “Lives on Fire,” a new television series premiering this Friday.

Gresier is one four women of CAL FIRE to be featured on this new show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and this week, she told Firehouse how she made her unlikely childhood dream come true.

Diley Greiser
CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department
Glen Avon Station #17

“When I was about 12 years old, I barely spoke English and had just gotten here from Cuba,” she said.

She was new to Chicago, and she and her father came across an emergency scene: firefighters working to assist a man in a car crash on railroad tracks.

“I remember how powerful, gentle and tender they were,” she said. “One thing that came across clearly was that these people cared about this man who was bleeding, and were making a difference in his life. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I want to do that.’”

At that time, however, she didn’t think this was a position that a woman would do. “I thought it was just a dream, something that wasn’t reachable,” she said.

So how did she go from there to making firefighting a reality?

“Life is funny – a lot of things happen in between,” she said.

At age 25 she found herself divorced with three children, and seeking new direction.

“I wanted to do something where I would be a role model for my children and that truly made me happy,” she said.

So she pursued her childhood dream – a bit on the late side and starting from scratch, she said. “I started knocking on fire station doors to ask about it,” she said, and she eventually went through EMT training, paramedic training, and the fire academy.

The challenge of balancing all of that with supporting her family and being a mother was one of “blood, sweat and tears,” she said. She failed her first fire academy, and her second time through overlapped with paramedic school, while she was also working part time.

“For an entire year I didn’t have a single day off,” she said. “When I got news that they had extended the fire academy, I almost had a nervous breakdown because I didn’t know how I was going to do it… but I was in too far to give up.”

By the time she had figured out her path, followed it through and gotten hired, 10 years had passed and she was 35. “Every move I made took a long time because I had to support my kids,” she said. But it was all worth it.

Her message to other women is, “You can do anything you set your mind to. You just need to take the steps and have the courage to follow through.”

She adds that one of the best “compliments” she has ever received came from her son. “He said, ‘You know mom, you may not be the brightest but you have a lot of perseverance – you never give up.’”

Her next advice is, “Ask for help, and people will be there for you.” She credits her family and others in the fire service for their support.

After achieving her career goals, Greiser began one more project that is also dear to her heart and assists the community.

She formed a non-profit organization called Rena’s Dresses, in honor of her daughter, who died at birth, and her husband’s sister, who died suddenly as a teenager.

“We wanted to do something to honor them and to help children,” Greiser said, so they organized this charity to provide prom dresses and support to girls who otherwise could not afford them.

When asked how she does it all, Greiser replied: “It’s easy because I have the support of my family and volunteers. It’s not like I’m doing it alone… that’s the whole point – community.”

Information about the charity is available at Renasdresses.org and on Facebook. Their next fundraiser is June 24.

"Lives on Fire" premieres Friday, June 8 at 9/8c on the Oprah Winfrey Network. For further details, visit the "Lives on Fire" page.