July 9, 2007
HAGERSTOWN, Md. — The Hagerstown Fire Department’s first female career firefighter is on duty, after completing nine weeks of training.
Although others are quick to note her accomplishment, firefighter Deanna Glaze says she just wants to be a member of the department.
“They have treated me very well,” she said. “I haven’t been singled out or given any special privileges, which is the way it should be. It’s about me being part of the team, not about me being a girl.”
Miss Glaze, 23, is stationed at Western Enterprise Fire Company, where some members of her training class also are expected to be working.
When she is not at the Hagerstown fire station, Miss Glaze will be in class training to be a paramedic. She also will continue to work part time at other stations and volunteer at Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Company, where she has been involved since she was 16.
Most of her work is as a medic, which Miss Glaze finds less physically demanding than firefighting. The training certainly was, she said.
Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary R. Hawbaker said Miss Glaze was the only woman to make it past rigorous agility testing. The other parts of the test include a written exam and an interview that narrowed the field of prospective firefighters from nearly 200 to a class of about 10.
Miss Glaze said one of the more difficult parts of the agility testing required her to carry a 150-pound victim, represented by a life-size dummy, down a ladder.
“The physical parts, for me, were more challenging,” she said. “I’m competing with big 6-foot, 250-pound guys. I had to build my agility and strength.”
Miss Glaze said she found that she needed some improvement in her upper-body strength to keep pace.
“Girls don’t have as much upper-body strength,” she said. “So, I had to find other ways to do things.”
Techniques included more use of her legs. Miss Glaze also made more trips to the gym to increase her strength.
She said some people told her before applying to be a firefighter in Hagerstown that she would fail because the physical requirements would be too demanding.
She said that being a woman in a primarily male field can be intimidating, but firefighting is another chance for her to serve.
“This really is a special interest of mine now, and a passion,” Miss Glaze said. “And I know I’ll be bettering myself in the fire department.”
Our Own Salute to Local Firefighters
By John E. Carey
December 25, 2006
The holiday season gives us a good opportunity to reflect upon and thank the many public servants who make America safe and secure, even on holidays such Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when every citizen wants to be home with family and friends. Go into any fire or police station on any holiday and you’ll find our dedicated public servants standing guard over the rest of us.
Our military men and women earned and deserve special thanks and recognition always. But in my 20 years in the U.S. Military, it always seemed like there were a good number of visiting dignitaries, from the president on down, thanking us and sharing our turkey during the holidays.
Your neighborhood police or fire station may not be so lucky. So we offer this toast and our thanks to our dedicated public servants across America, especially those on duty or called into action during these holidays, while the rest of us take time off, enjoy the family and watch football.
My friend Frank R. Higgins of Arlington, Virginia told me the story of his multi-generational firefighting family, which left me in awe of so many police and fire professionals who have served us for generations and watch over us today.
Frank’s grandfather, Frank B. Higgins, Sr., joined the Atlantic City Volunteer Fire Department in 1898. Though he served in scores of fires, “Frank Senior’s” family members still recall the Great Baltimore Fire which started on February 7, 1904.
Quickly this fire threatened the center of the Baltimore business district and Baltimore Chief Engineer George Horton ordered a general alarm. Horton then sent this chilling telegram to neighboring jurisdictions: “Desperate fire here. Must have help at once.”
Frank R. Higgins, Sr. responded with his Atlantic City corps. Other firefighters came from Washington D.C.; Wilmington, DE; Philadelphia and other departments in the region.
In 1945, “Frank Senior” retired from firefighting after 47 years “on the line.” But the Higgins family continued to serve. Frank B. Higgins, Jr. had already joined the Fort Belvoir Fire Department before the onset of World War II.
In 1942, “Frank Junior” became the 24th paid Arlington, Virginia firefighter and he wore badge number 24 proudly. In the line of duty he was injured several times. He suffered a broken hip in a fire truck accident at the corner of Glebe Road and Pershing Drive. He retired officially from firefighting in 1954; but continued to perform light duty assignments at Arlington firehouses for many years.
His son, my friend Frank B. Higgins, had already joined the Clarendon Volunteer Fire Department when he was 18 years of age in 1948. He quit high school in 1951 when he joined the U.S. Government Fire Department at Arlington Hall.
I asked him what possessed him and others in his family to carry on the tradition of public service.
Frank thought for a moment and said, “We’re kind crazy people, you know? Who else is going to dash into a blazing inferno?”
In 1952, Frank B. Higgins joined the Navy and first served in the Bainbridge, Maryland, Naval Training Center Fire Department. A year later he was assigned to USS Altair in Baltimore, where he served as the ship’s Fire Marshall for two years.
Anyone who has served in the U.S. Navy probably heard a lecture like the one I heard from a Chief Petty Officer some thirty years ago: “When there is a fire at sea, nobody is coming to help. The crew has to turn into a fire department.” Every U.S. Navy sailor receives firefighting training – even today.
When “Frank B.” left the Navy he returned to Federal Government firefighting service in Virginia. In November, 1956, he joined the Arlington Fire Department and drew from retirement his Dad’s badge: Number 24. After 23 plus years of service, and several firefighting injuries, he retired on disability and has had two back surgeries as a result of his dedication to service.
“Frank B’s” brother joined the Arlington force one year after Frank. He continued the family tradition of honoring past heroes by wearing Arlington badge number 4 for more than 20 years of service.
And the story of a family dedicated to firefighting and public safety continues to this day. “Frank B’s” sons Randy and David are firemen today. Their dad wears his fire radio everywhere he goes, so he can keep an ear on public safety even now.
But firefighting is not about one family or one man. It is about the family created by teamwork and reliance upon others. Reliance upon others and teamwork in support of life itself. Many firefighters were lost on September 11, 2001. But through time in America, firefighters and policemen have been lost or severely hurt while they worked to protect all citizens.
Whether the firefighter is an 18 year old with no family connection to his trade or a 47 year old veteran with a 150 year connection to firefighting; each deserves to be honored and thanked. Every one offers himself to service.
So today, or on any holiday or on any other day, we have a good opportunity to walk into our local fire or police station to say, “We know you are here. We appreciate what you do. And we thank you all.” Take a pie or some other goodies. Guys like the watch team of Lieutenant Gary Dize of Falls Church, Virginia, which stood guard over my family on Thanksgiving Day, will appreciate your extra efforts. And the firefighters and their God will thank you in return.
John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants Inc. and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.
Proud to be An American