By Terry Rogers
At their annual banquet, Memorial Fire Company in Slaughter Beach named Liz Hayes their Firefighter of the Year. Hayes, who is only 20 years old, says that firefighting is in her blood.
“My dad is a firefighter and my mom is an EMT, so I guess it is just in my blood,” Hayes said. “I joined the fire company at 16, as soon as I could as a junior member. I actually started working with the company at the age of 12 when I could join the Ladies Auxiliary but knew I would eventually join the men’s side as soon as I could.”
The best part about firefighting for Hayes is that she gets to help people when they need help the most. She also enjoys the camaraderie of the fire company, hanging out at the firehouse and feeling like she is useful in the community. Although she loves her work as a firefighter, she is currently in school to earn a certification as a Licensed Practical Nurse and plans to go into a career in nursing. She intends to continue volunteering as a firefighter after earning her degree.
“I don’t run into the house with the other guys,” Hayes said. “I prefer being on the outside, operating equipment and feeding the guys hoses. At a recent brush fire, I basically handled equipment by myself. My dad is our Chief Engineer so I plan to follow in his footsteps.”
Even in volunteer firefighting, there is a lot of training, Hayes explained. Although she has not participated in many water rescues, Hayes says that training for water rescue is her favorite. She is looking forward to upcoming training that involves handling boats during water rescue as well as the rescue itself.
“My advice to anyone who is considering joining the fire company is to get as much training as you can,” Hayes said. “You also want to listen to the older members, even if you don’t like what they have to say. You can get great advice from older guys who have been in the company for a long time. Chain of command is critical. Chain of command can save your life.”
Hayes, who received a plaque with her name, the year and her designation, is not sure what the qualifications were that earned her the Firefighter of the Year Award. She thinks the fact that she has been volunteering at the fire company almost her entire life, is dependable and willing to learn may be what earned her the award.
“I can remember when I was young that I would go to school during the day, stop at my dad’s shop for a bit after school and then we would spend nights working on equipment at the fire company,” Hayes said. “That’s where I learned about fire fighting equipment and knew that I wanted to someday join that side of firefighting. I guess all of that is why they decided to give me the award.”
Volunteer fire companies are experiencing shortages in volunteers currently and Hayes encourages anyone who wants to help people to consider volunteering.
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