ERIN OFF CAMERA: You’ve Got Grit, Kid

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I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy to make it to a Friday.

This picture of me bent over, sucking air sums up so much about the past several months.

When Sonya and I started this adventure back in June, we really had no idea what we were getting into.  All we knew was that the Urbandale Fire Department wanted personal trainer Angie Gallagher to create a workout program to help women pass the physical test for firefighter candidates and we were invited to give it a try. I vividly remember Angie saying, “Oh please!  You two can do this, it’s only five stations!” Somehow, I knew better but I wasn’t smart enough to say, “No thanks.”

That first try sparked a lot of things in us.  Frustration, determination, curiosity, surprise, admiration… and those feelings led us to ask more and more questions about the fire service in Iowa.

We started a training program that included lifting more weight than either one of us had ever done before … or at least more than we’d tried to do since high school!

We interviewed some of the female pioneers from the Des Moines Fire Department, asked for your opinions on whether or not there should be different tests for men and women and if there should be one standard test for every department.  Finally, we took you along as we experienced a training burn and retook the UFD test.


We had so much great material, a lot of it just didn’t fit into our on-air stories so we’ve posted it online.  You can see Sonya and me try the Des Moines CPAT test and check out the unconventional way I finally dragged that dang dummy in Urbandale.  I HATE HIM!!!

This has easily been the most challenging, humbling, eye-opening and rewarding experience I’ve ever had as a reporter.  I’m grateful to all of the men and women in the fire service who helped us produce these stories, and for all of the ones we’ve never met who’ve chosen this amazing career.

I think if I’d grown up dreaming of being a firefighter I’d be able to pass these tests. I could have trained harder and practiced more.  A lot of people thought we were crazy to try any of this.  A month or so into our training after I hurt my back my husband asked, “Why are you doing this?!?  It’s not like you want to do this job.”  My mother was worried about me and said, “Has it occurred to you that you’re just not cut out for this?” The thing is – I’m stubborn.  I knew I wasn’t cut out for it, but I said I was going to do it, so I did it.  I have no regrets about doing the training and trying the tests, even if I was frustrated, angry, embarrassed and scared at different points in time.  I got stronger, I conquered my fear of claustrophobia (sort of) and I tried as hard as I could during those tests.  One of my crowning moments during all of this was making it to the end of the CPAT test and hearing Captain Todd Francisco say, “You’ve got grit, kid.  You’ve got grit.”

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