Loretta Thompson and Mikala Ard are working hard to make history.
BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -
It will be a history-making day for the Bradley County Fire Department when the first female firefighters ever hired will begin their duties. Loretta Thompson and Mikala Ard are working hard to make history. They are training to be the first female firefighters at the fire department.
They've been in fire school since October and are expected to graduate in mid-January.
These two women will be the first paid females at the Bradley County Fire Department. They hope to make an example for future generations.
Fire training continues for the Bradley County Fire Department's rookie class. This class has 10 members including two female firefighters joining a historically all-male crew. “No special treatment, they do the same drills, can pick up and carry out the guys,” said Lieutenant Aaron Hicks with the Bradley County Fire Department.
Loretta Thompson has been volunteering with the department for a year. She recently decided she wanted to make this her career. “Addicting for a lack of a better word. It is a good physical challenge, and it feels good to make a difference,” said the firefighter in training.
Mikala Ard served in the United States Army National Guard and wanted to continue her calling in helping others. “Here to help the community, help people when they are having a really bad day,” said Ard.
Firefighter training isn't easy. For 12 weeks the duo has been going through real life scenarios, hazmat testing, and medical training. “I am very proud; it is very humbling. The training staff is very supportive, helped a lot.”
For them being a female in a profession dominated by men isn't a problem. They want to be pushed as hard as any other new recruit. “I am pretty competitive; it is not that they are guys. I want to beat a lot of people at everything.”
“Female or male, as long as you can do the job, just do it,” said Thompson.
And want to be recognized as Bradley County Firefighters rather than the department's first female firefighters. “Something you want to pursue, just do it. Make it your goal. If you need help getting there ask somebody. Just go for it.”
Lieutenant Hicks said for anyone thinking about becoming a firefighter, male or female, it takes a special kind of person. And if there was any uncertainty about hiring these women it quickly passed.
“I would take either of them and put them on a truck and respond to any call.”
The class will take their state exams on Friday. Graduation is expected to be January 15th.
There are a few female volunteer firefighters working with the fire department, but Thompson and Ard will be the first on the staff.