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Hanscom firefighter Maria Pimental
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Maria Pimental, a firefighter with the Hanscom Fire Department, participates in a Base Readiness Exercise in a parking lot outside Building 1624 early last month. Pimental has been a firefighter for 19 years as a Soldier in the Army and as a Department of Defense employee. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)
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A burning desire to serve

Posted 7/11/2013   Updated 7/11/2013 Email story   Print story

    


by Mark Wyatt
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


7/11/2013 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Being a firefighter can be a challenging and dangerous career choice. It's a career that according to the National Fire Protection Association's website contains only four percent of female firefighters -- or 12,800 in total.

For two female Hanscom Air Force Base firefighters assigned to the 66th Air Base Group Fire Department, fighting fires is something that has been a burning desire since graduating from their respective Fire Academies 19 years ago.

"I like to help people, so when I went to enlist in the Army when I was younger, my recruiter suggested firefighting, I accepted it even though I didn't have much knowledge in it," said Maria Pimentel, Fire Department firefighter. "I moved to this country when I was teenager from a small island in the Azores, we didn't even have a fire department."

For the Fire Department's dispatcher supervisor, a calling to serve is something that runs deep within her.

"I have seen things that I have never wanted to see, helped people in ways that I may never thought I could have and been involved in things that have tested me physically and mentally," said Susan Gribbin, Fire Department dispatcher supervisor and Rhoe Island Air National Guard emergency manager. "I feel very fortunate to be a part of that and to help people."

Firefighting is a physically demanding career that requires a firefighter's best.

"It takes a special desire to be in the firefighting field and that desire motivates you every time you are able to help someone in need," said Hanscom Fire Chief Bob Hildreth. "I have been fortunate to work with many female firefighters over my career and have found each to be truly outstanding professionals in the field."

Since first enlisting in the Army 19 years ago, Pimentel has seen a greater number of women pursue firefighting.

"When I first became a firefighter, there were not as many women in fire service," said Pimentel. "Today that number is rising."

In the past ten years, according to the National Fire Protection Association's website, the number of female firefighters has nearly doubled.

Both agree they are fortunate to be a part of an accepting and tolerant team here at Hanscom.

"Being a firefighter at Hanscom has been amazing, from day one I have felt right at home," Pimentel said.

Gribbin's desire to pursue a career that has allowed her an opportunity to serve people was inspired from an accident she experienced when she was younger.

"When I was in my late teens I survived a surgical accident that left a lasting impression on me," said Gribbin. "From that experience I wanted to pursue a career that would allow the opportunity to help people in the same way I was helped."

Regardless of gender or even career choice, both agree opportunities now in any line of work are open to anyone regardless of gender.

"I would encourage anyone - boys or girls - if you want to be a firefighter one day, don't let anyone or anything deter you," said Pimentel. "If you work hard, you can do it, you can do anything you want."

Gribbin offered to young people interested in a career in fire service, visit a fire department, and speak with firefighters about it as a career.

Pimentel feels incredibly fortunate to be doing something that she loves and appreciates the opportunities she has.

"I have enjoyed every moment of being a firefighter and becoming a part of what firefighters consider a 'brotherhood," said Pimentel.



tabComments
7/11/2013 9:01:10 PM ET
My Mom is the best firefighter When I say my mom is a firefighter they think secretary and I'm like nope she goes out and fights fires Not that secretary isn't important but it's not everyday you see a female firefighter.
Myra Wong, New BedfordMA
 
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