By Dave Ingram
The Fire Departments on the Eastern Shore are very fortunate to have a number of dedicated female firefighters in their ranks. I contacted Jodi Whyte, who is a teacher by profession, and a volunteer member at Station 24 in Musquodoboit Harbour, and asked her to provide her perspective on her experience as a firefighter.
When did you first become interested in being a firefighter and why?
There are two things I've always dreamed of doing for as long as I can remember... teaching Physical Education and being a firefighter. So that is what I do! I began volunteering within the fire department the same year I began full-time teaching, back in 2005. I've always been a help, a giver of sorts, so what better way to help and give back to people than to be a volunteer firefighter. It was empowering to me because I was a female in a predominantly male field. I wanted to be the one running into the fire when everyone else was running out. Firefighting is not for everyone, but it is definitely what I was made for.
As a female firefighter are there any particular talents and abilities you bring to the job?
Being a female there are many talents and abilities I bring to the job. I am small, so confined spaces and searches are perfect for me. Because of my physical fitness, which I maintain daily in part because of my Physical Education profession, I am able to breathe longer on one air bottle at a fire scene where others may go through two bottles. I believe that being a female volunteer and a teacher shows my students and other young people in the community, particularly the girls, that they can be strong, fit, and courageous in a male-dominated field.
You have a very busy life with work and family demands. How do you maintain a balance?
It's all about the family-life-work balance... but family always comes first. I think that is part of why I do it as well, for families. Dedication is key. I'm dedicated to everything I do, I'm all in all the time. I also do it for my two little boys, Traxton and Traydon. I want them to see their mommy as a strong woman and volunteer firefighter. But sacrifice is a major factor. I think you have to be highly unselfish and willing, over and over, to sacrifice, whether its sleep, social, or free time, to attend calls. There's nothing like being awakened by the pager and heading off in the middle of the night to help someone... but I think that takes a certain kind of person.
Is there anything in particular about firefighting that you enjoy, that interests you and keeps you involved?
One of the best parts of being a volunteer in my eyes is when I show up to a call, because I teach in a community, more often than not it may be one of my students or former students homes we've been dispatched to. When I get there, I love that these students are comforted by my presence. Also, being a volunteer firefighter makes me feel strong, like I can conquer anything. Being able to carry a grown man down a ladder, drag someone out of a building, help save a life... this makes me feel tough.
What support have you received from other volunteer firefighters and the other people in your life that helps you in doing this job?
Volunteer firefighters and their families are so supportive of each other... probably because we know the particular demands of the job. We do extra training with each other, we help teach each other, we are there for each other when times are tough, and our families help to give us the strength and will to continue pushing through sleepless nights and tough calls.
Would you recommend becoming a volunteer firefighter to others, and why?
Yes! Definitely! Please join! The skills you learn and the situations you are placed in are awesome and they will only help you grow as an individual and firefighter. Being willing to help a complete stranger is so rewarding and what you give comes back to you more than tenfold... and I am blessed and honored to be a teacher and firefighter in my community. I am very thankful for friends, family, other firefighters and community members for their support. You are why I do what I do every day. Thank you.
Interested in becoming a volunteer? Please come to station 24, Riverside Drive, Musquodoboit Harbour, or Station 26, Oyster Pond any Tuesday evening at 7:00 P.M. or call 902-490-5611. Volunteer firefighters assist career firefighters during the weekdays and respond to all calls on nights and weekends.