We honor firefighters with the Thin Red Line headband
Lacie Hewlett is a Paramedic and Firefighter of 13 years. We talked with Lacie to find out what it's like to work in such a physically demanding and dangerous job. Read the interview and find learn how Lacie stays in shape, deals with the challenges of the job and what advice she has for other women who want to become firefighters.
When did you decide you wanted to be a firefighter? What inspired you to join?
I used to spend time in Portland, Oregon during the summer and went to live there during my senior year in high school. At that time I was teaching aerobics and a swim coach. I gave swim lessons to a fire chief's daughter. The fire chief looked so poised in uniform and encouraged me to pursue it. I had never seen a woman firefighter because there really were none in Northwest Arkansas at the time, but in Portland it was common to have women firefighters.
We honor Paramedics and EMTs with the Thin White Line headband
I went back to Arkansas to start community college and saw Fire Science as an option. I asked the advisor what I needed to do to become a firefighter. He said, "We don't have any women firefighters around here." He told me a lot of women were not strong enough. Back then I was into fitness and working out but I was not strong. That was before CrossFit. I worked on getting stronger with weights and did the 2 year program in Fire Science. I was working 2 jobs and didn't sleep. I passed the test the first time-- I was 22 years old. then I joined the fire department. They were very progressive but it was a challenge being the only woman in the beginning.
What has been the biggest challenge about being a firefighter?
It was hard being the only woman. The guys didn't know how to talk to me. Some said, "If she can't pull me out of a fire I don't want to work with her." But I worked hard to fit in. I have brothers so I knew how to fit in, to make friends with them. I had to get comfortable being the only girl.
What advice would you give a woman who wants to be a firefighter?
Start lifting, be strong and gain muscle. Do CrossFit, it will keep you strong and stop the naysayers.
How do you stay fit?
Our crew works out together. We do "bring sally ups" with squats. We do battles to see who can do the most pull ups and we do planks with weights. At work we do quarterly standards-- you put all your gear on, which is 40-50 pounds for me but can be 60-70 pounds for the guys. We run stairs and work on air management with the mask. It's all about conditioning your lungs so you can make the air bottle last longer. You work on skipping breaths and slowing your breathing.
What is your diet like?
I work out to feel good and be strong for my job. If I want something I will have it, everything in moderation. I eat sweets every day.
How do you stay calm when the adrenaline kicks in?
When I first started as a firefighter it was hard to stay calm. You are nervous. You get trained but you haven't applied it yet. By the third year you settle in to the job. It just takes time and experience. We rely on our training to assess a situation and work through it.
What is your favorite part of being a firefighter?
My brothers. They are not just co-workers. They are my family.
Show your support for firefighters, police officers and emergency responders with Thin Line headbands