She’s a firefighter: Melissa Ford, Kingman Fire Departments’ only female firefighter, works just as hard as everyone else
CELEBRATING INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
A firefighter, a rescuer that puts out harmful fires that can hurt people and the environment, and rescues people and animals. At the end of the day all firefighters are the same, regardless of who is wearing the uniform.
Melissa Ford, a part-time firefighter with Kingman Fire Department and a full-time firefighter with the Grand Canyon, decided to challenge herself and answer the call for help.
“It was a good challenge. Up here you really don’t see many female firefighters, but I’ve always been interested in things that weren’t the norm,” Ford said.
At the age of 19, she decided she wanted to ride around in a red truck and help others. Her family and friends were behind her with full support every step of the way.
“My mom kept pushing me telling me ‘if you want to do this we’re behind you,’” she said. “And finally I took the first step and she couldn’t be more proud of me.”
One of the most memorable experiences Ford had was not on the job, but while she was going through the academy. Her little niece saw Ford in her uniform and told her that “only guys can be firefighters.”
“It kind of just opened my eyes a little bit to see why it is so huge that I’m doing something like this,” she said. “Because even at that young of an age it’s in her mindset that only guys can be firefighters.”
She said she’s doesn’t like the attention she receives from being a female firefighter because she did just as much as the other people who had to go through the academy and training.
The main message Ford tries to spread around is for other women to see it isn’t hard or scary to be a firefighter.
Her first day on the job was different than what she had to go through in the academy. During the academy she trained, pushed to do her best and learn new things. Her first day with KFD, her nerves got to her.
“The first time on the job here in Kingman, it was so nerve wrecking,” she said. “These guys are professionals. You want to make a good impression.”
While working with KFD since November, she has found it rewarding and enjoys working with the rest of the Kingman firefighters.
“There’s always training, always things that they will help you with to be a better firefighter,” Ford said.
And when she’s not working with the Kingman firefighters, she’s a full-time firefighter with the Grand Canyon.
“It’s different than being a firefighter here in Kingman,” Ford said about work at the Grand Canyon. “You have to change your tactics a little bit because you’re flown down to the canyon to help with patients.”
Although sometimes being on the job can be “nerve wrecking” since Ford is smaller than most of the other crew members, it doesn’t mean she gives up.
“I know that I can push through it because I pushed through in my academy,” she said.
While wearing the yellow coat, black boots and helmet and helping others, she’s learned how to be compassionate.
“You automatically have that compassion to feel where you need to help people,” Ford said. “But actually seeing it, doing it and being there when they’re scared for their lives, it’s a different perspective on why we do this job.”
For other women who would like to be a firefighter, advice Ford has is to just do it.
“You can fail but at least you tried. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be rough,” she said.
And remember, there’s always help and no one is alone going through the process of being a firefighter, there’s others, too, Ford said.
Ford would like to share with the community that regardless of her being a female, she is just a firefighter. She isn’t doing anything different than what everyone else is doing.
“For females that want to do it, just do what you want to do, don’t expect special treatment, don’t make excuses, and if you have to work harder, then work harder,” she said.
Ford said she never made excuses and if she failed she knew she had to work harder.
Currently she is the only female firefighter with KFD. She grew up in Kingman, graduated from Kingman High School, and furthered her education by attending Mohave Community College majoring in nursing, and soon will be heading off to Northern Arizona University.