A Burning Desire to Serve
“I can’t honestly say what drew me into firefighting,” Maude Lallemand said. “But once I started, I was hooked.”
This 24-year-old Pennsylvania native is a 2012 graduate of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, where she joined the volunteer fire department as a junior member. Upon high school graduation, she moved to Harrisburg, where she received her associate’s degree in fire science and technology from Harrisburg Area Community College.
“I joined the live-in program at Colonial Park Fire Company while attending college, meaning I was able to room and board at the station and, in return, run calls and attend training for the department,” she said.
Lallemand is a fourth-generation firefighter on her father’s side. Her younger brother is also a firefighter, so it’s definitely a passion that runs in the family.
“My family has been amazingly supportive of me in the fire service, and I cannot thank them enough for it,” she said.
Still serving today with the Colonial Park Fire Company, Lallemand was the first female in the department to reach her current position of lieutenant and feels very fortunate to now have a fulltime career in fire service, having recently graduated from the fire academy in northern Virginia.
“I like the idea of being a part of something bigger than myself, working as a team to accomplish a goal, and providing support and care to the community,” she said.
Becoming a fire-service professional involves many hours of hard work, both in hands-on training and classroom instruction.
“Training in fire service adds up to well over 500 hours,” Lallemand said.
Beginning classes introduce students to how fire service works, equipment uses, and a basic understanding of operations.
“As you advance, you take more technical classes, including vehicle rescue, high-angle rescue, confined-space work, and much more,” she explained.
Lallemand admits the classes can be difficult both physically and mentally, but it is all done in preparation for any possible situations that may be encountered in the field.
Lallemand also holds a variety of professional certifications, including firefighter 1 and 2, rope rescue, HAZMAT operations, vehicle rescue technician, pumps, truck 1 and 2, confined-space operations, first aid, and emergency medical technician.
She is proud to be a female fire-service professional and she recognized early on that “I would have to work hard and prove myself to some, but many female firefighters have come before me, and I am sure many will come after, each proving what we can do.”
Of course, it has helped that she’s been lucky enough to work with a “great group of guys that accepted me fairly quick,” she said.
Her assignments vary on any given day and in any given situation, but Lallemand explained that where she serves can depend on what apparatus she is riding in, and it can even come down to what seat she is sitting in on that apparatus.
“Depending on where I ride, I can be assigned to driving the apparatus, pulling hand lines, throwing ladders, or operating as officer of the rig,” she said.
And although she is well trained and prepared, there are still times when she feels the stress of the job.
“I’ve been nervous about making the right call as an officer, pulling the right line, or even just messing up, but I have learned to trust my training and experience as well as learn from my mistakes,” Lallemand said.
The Colonial Park Fire Company tends to be busier in the summer months. Lallemand attributes that to an increase in people traveling through the area for work and vacation, contributing to an increase in vehicle accidents.
“We see an increase in fires as well due to the improper discarding of smoking materials, improper handling of fireworks … and grilling too close to the house or garage,” she said.
Naturally, the goal is to always have a positive outcome when called to the scene of an emergency, and as Lallemand said, there is a feeling of pride and accomplishment among the people she works and volunteers with when they are able to help someone in need.
But there are also times when a positive outcome isn’t the case, and a life has been lost.
“It is in these times when the true colors of the fire service being a ‘family’ show and come in,” she said. “After a severe call, knowing that you can talk to and rely on your fellow firefighters is truly what helps one understand and begin to accept the outcome.”
Lallemand thinks that anyone in a public service position does it because they truly enjoy and want to help others, and she is certain that is the reason she does what she does. She also knows that so far, her experience in fire service has taught her that she can accomplish more and push herself further than she thought she could.
“Things that at one point I was uncomfortable doing, I can now do without hesitation,” she said. “As for my future, I just hope I have many more successful years in volunteer and career fire service and hope I never lose passion for the job.”