Q: Please introduce yourself…
A: I’m Bryce Pizano. On Memorial Day weekend, I started as a seasonal, part-time firefighter EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) with the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District. I’m lucky enough to live at Station 82 in Redstone. There are apartments at the Redstone, Carbondale and Missouri Heights stations offered to people who want to volunteer or work for the fire department.
Q: How did you start with the fire department?
A: In January 2022, I started as a volunteer and took an EMT class. Then I took a wildland firefighting course and a swiftwater rescue class.
Q: What’s involved with swiftwater rescue?
A: This year, we’re looking at a big season for whitewater rescues. I was lucky enough to train rescue last year, but there’s a big push to get as many people as possible in our department certified this year. It’s probably the most intimidating of all of the things that we do. Being in the water and throwing yourself into that is definitely scarier than a lot of the things I did during fire academy.
Q: It’s pretty unpredictable in the water, isn’t it?
A: Totally. You go in with a dry suit, helmet and life preserver, and you think you’re prepared, and as soon as you hit that water, you get your breath taken away, and you know you just gotta go for it. I was never a strong swimmer, so it took a lot for me to figure out how to push myself, but that was part of why I did it. Now, I’m much more confident and prepared.
Q: Have you always liked to challenge yourself?
A: Absolutely, and maybe to a fault. I am very competitive and always was in school sports, but I was way more competitive with myself than with anyone else. I learned to be a good sport and tamp down the negative side of being competitive. I like to push my own boundaries as far as I can, but never imagined I’d be a firefighter.
Q: You’ll be in community events like parades and see young girls standing on the sidewalk watching you go by on the fire truck. What would you say to them about becoming a firefighter someday?
A: To be confident in themselves. I’ve already been able to have this conversation with a few young women who say they’re interested but worried. I tell them that, especially here, we have so many supportive people that want everyone who wants to be able to be a firefighter, to be able to and feel comfortable doing it. They’re here to make sure you succeed.
And yeah, it’s gonna be hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done — getting through the fire academy and all these trainings — but I felt so good when I was done. Maybe I had to work a bit harder to meet those physical requirements, but I did, and it feels super great, so don’t think you can’t.
Q: This fire district seems like a good fit for you.
A: Our department is so supportive of a career that’s traditionally been only for men. I feel very lucky to be in this area. Our entire region is pretty “equality forward,” but I’ve felt so welcome and appreciated in Carbondale, and that’s awesome. We all have to count on each other. And in the worst-case scenario, when we’re all going in together, we know we can rely on each other. Not only do you want to make sure that people around you are like that, but I also want to make sure I’m capable. You push yourself, and it’s great to say that I’m a woman doing this, just a person doing this.
Q: Very good. Anything else?
A: Yeah, become a volunteer. [A big smile and laugh.] Seriously, it’s fun. We’ll supply you with all the knowledge you need, and it feels good to help your community. Volunteering takes some time, but it doesn’t take much more than that … and heart.