TRIAL BY FIRE: Into The Fire & Back To The Test
Captain Linda Frangenberg says it’s an exciting job, but she also knows it’s a dangerous job. “I was involved in an incident where we had a porch roof collapse and I was trapped, briefly. You know, it stops you for a minute and it makes you think, you know life is pretty short.”
Captain Frangenberg will never forget that call, and we’ll never forget going inside a burning building. The gear was the only barrier between us and the fire and the air packs our only source of oxygen. Once inside, everything disappeared into the smoke. The glow of the fire was the only thing we could see and it was terrifying.
Most people will never experience a training burn until they pass a fire department physical ability test. After training for about three months with personal trainer Angie Gallagher, we head back to the Urbandale Fire Department. “I know they’re going to give it 150-percent and that will be success enough,” says Angie.
Sonya quit the last time at six minutes and was unable to finish the test. This time she completed the course in six minutes, fifty seconds. It’s a huge improvement but it still doesn’t meet the four-minute mark.
The dummy proved to be Erin’s undoing the last time and he prevented her from finishing the test this time around, too.
Frangenberg says it takes a lot of physical and mental strength to pass any department’s test, and to stay on the job. “It’s a different environment we work in and you have to be very tough. It’s challenging, especially as you get older.”
She’s a 24-year veteran and doesn’t consider herself a pioneer, but she is a role model for future female firefighters. “It’s great,” says Liberty Kelley “it’s fantastic – words can’t even describe how great it is to meet her and see people who actually succeeded doing it.” She’s wanted to be a firefighter for as long as she can remember and is already a member of the Eldora Fire Department’s Explorer program. It gives teens interested in the fire service a taste of what it’s really like. “Every time my pager goes off it’s like, okay we get to go, we get to go!”
Liberty’s mother isn’t so sure about her career choice but her dad thinks it’s great. Liberty says the men on the fire department haven’t always been as enthusiastic. “At first yeah, very difficult,” she says,” but that’s just how it is and you get used to that being the minority, I guess.”
Liberty Kelley may be in the minority but like those before her, she’s not letting it get in her way. Frangenberg has this advice, “Don’t let your gender, don’t let your race, don’t let those things interfere with what you want to do.”
We’ve definitely learned that firefighting is not for everyone. It’s the fire in the belly that really counts, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.