FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Heavy smoke, zero visibility, and extreme heat are just some of the challenges 22 recruits face as they train to become Fall River firefighters. But as the recruits faced their first live burn training of the academy, there was another first for the department itself — the first female recruit in the department’s history.
“We knew right away that she’d be a good fit,” said Fall River Fire Chief Sean Flannery.
That’s because before she joined the academy, Stephanie Macedo was a roofer, all too familiar with heights, ladders, and working in extreme heat.
“We’ve been around since 1803,” said Chief Flannery. “To get our first female at this point, it is a little surprising, but we’re glad to have her.”
He says they’re not looking at Macedo as a female, but instead as a recruit who can do the job.
That job comes with some heavy lifting. Flannery says the pack and gear each recruit wears weighs around 50 pounds. The dummy they have to carry out of the building during burn training is around 100 pounds.
Photo Gallery: Stephanie Macedo in training
“You have to put your all there and just ‘hulk’ it out,” Macedo says. “There’s a wee bit of pressure there,” she laughs, “but I’m just gonna do what I do. I was taught at a young age, work hard; whatever you do, work hard, work hard, work hard. So, girl? Boy? It’s still a hard job. It doesn’t matter. Just work hard.”
She knows, though, that she’s setting an example for little girls with big dreams.
“I just want little girls to say, ‘I can do that too,'” she says.
The flames, the heights, the heavy lifting — none of it seems to bother Stephanie Macedo. So what is she scared of?
“Cockroaches,” she laughs, “the only thing I’m scared of in this world!”
She admits, the written test at the end of the academy also has her a bit scared, but she’s already learned that she can do more than even she realized.
“One thing this class has taught me? You can do whatever you want,” she said. “It amazes me. I wasn’t really good at book smarts, but if you put in the time, you can. It took me by surprise!”
Just like she “hulked it out” in burn training, Stephanie passed her written test. Fire Chief John Lynch confirms to Eyewitness News, she’ll be graduating from the academy in a ceremony scheduled for Friday, August 16th.
She’ll join a small group of women across Southern New England who put their lives on the line to save others.
We dug deeper into the numbers. Out of the 15 municipalities that responded to us, Providence leads the pack with 24 of its 446 firefighters being women. In East Providence, four out of 104 firefighters on the force are women. Taunton and Cranston are tied for third, each with three female firefighters.
To see all of the numbers we gathered, click on the icons in the map below.