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Pendleton is city's first paid female firefighter
Samantha Pendleton, 22, is the first paid professional female firefighter with the Martinsville Fire Department. Pendleton, seen here with Deputy Fire Chief Kris Shrader, began working for the department July 1. (Bulletin photos by Ashley Jackson)
The Martinsville Fire Department has its first paid female firefighter.
Samantha Pendleton, 22, started in the part-time position July 1.
There have been female volunteer firefighters with the department before, but this is the first time it has had a woman as a paid professional firefighter, according to city Fire Chief Kenneth Draper.
Women have applied for the position in the past, but Pendleton was the first to pass all of the required written tests and the physical agility tests, Draper added.
Before receiving the job, Pendleton was a volunteer firefighter for more than five years. She has volunteered with the Fieldale Volunteer Fire Department since 2006. Since January of this year, she has volunteered with the Ridgeway Rescue Squad. Her initial firefighting training came while she was a student at Magna Vista High School, where she completed the fire training program in 2006, she said.
Draper said he decided to hire Pendleton based on her experience, her success in completing the Magna Vista firefighting program, and her passing scores on her EMT and other required tests. Also, “it seems like the right time” to have a woman with the department, he added.
Hiring Pendleton will “take the department to the next level,” Draper said. It puts the city in the same league as the many other cities nationwide that already have women firefighters, he added.
Pendleton was not the only woman with the Fieldale Volunteer Fire Department and the rescue squad, she said.
The city fire department is accustomed to having women around due to volunteers and those coming to complete their training, Draper said. No special arrangements will have to be made for Pendleton’s living quarters at the station while she is on duty because all beds are in individual bedrooms and have been for several years, he added.
Fire departments “need the diversity ... they (women) have got just as much to offer as men,” Pendleton said. “Things men accomplish, women can accomplish, too.”
Pendleton always dreamed of being a firefighter. “It’s all I wanted to do,” she added.
She was inspired to become a firefighter and work in public safety after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which occurred when she was about 11 years old. Seeing how the men and women gave their lives to help others that day inspired her to want to help in the same way, she said.
Firefighting allows her to help others, and she gets an adrenaline rush when going into a fire, she said, adding that the bonds formed with the other firefighters also are a major benefit of firefighting.
“I’m doing it (firefighting) for the same reasons the guys do it,” she added.
“It’s kind of surreal that I actually get to do it (firefighting)” as a career, Pendleton said.
While with the department, Pendleton plans to continue training and taking “as many classes as I can to further my career in firefighting,” she said, adding that her current goal is to obtain a paramedic license.