I grew up wanting to be a superhero
July 9, 2017 6:57 AM   Subscribe

At 56, a ‘Light Bulb’ Goes Off and a Firefighter Emerges [NYT] . Robin Nesdale’s story is not that unusual. At 56, divorced and with her daughter, her only child, off at college, her life felt a little empty and rudderless. So she became a firefighter.
posted by Mchelly (12 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome. I'm three years younger and can't imagine doing that.
posted by octothorpe at 7:23 AM on July 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

That's cool! My friend's mom did something similar. She was a bit younger when she became a firefighter, but she recently became Philadelphia's first female fire chief!
posted by astapasta24 at 7:25 AM on July 9, 2017 [29 favorites]

We have a full-timer on my current department who is 65, but we're a small combination department and he's been in and out of emergency services for the past 40-some years. I'm halfway through my 10th year in the fire service and made Lieutenant a few months ago; I'm one of two female fire officers in our entire county. Not department (I'm the only female, although we have women who work part-time for Ocean Rescue, and they're awesome too), but county. The other is an administrative battalion chief for a different department. The number of women in the fire service lags behind women in EMS and LEO, and it will be a long time, if ever, that the proportion of women in the fire service ever reach that of the other emergency services. One of the pioneers of EMS was a woman, and that may have been one of the reasons that women have been more accepted into those roles. EMS also pays better and has a more forgiving schedule.

That being said, astapasta24, please give my congratulations to Chief Long; that is amazing and my career goal is to retire as an operations BC. As far as FF Nesdale is concerned, good on her and I hope she continues to enjoy her job and department; I'm happy that she has found a good fit.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 7:41 AM on July 9, 2017 [24 favorites]

Thanks for the post, Mchelly! The first time I ever saw a female firefighter I got teary. I feel like every woman (and PoC) in a traditionally male (and white) job is a freedom fighter of sorts. How cool that this woman was able to work her ass off and win the opportunity to feel like a superhero.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:17 AM on July 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Allowing for physical fitness, there's a huge fiscal benefit for municipalities in hiring late(r)-in-life public safety officers -- much cheaper on an actuarial basis. Many will never qualify for their pensions and the rest will (mathematically) draw them for a much shorter period of time. The traditional firefighter or cop retires in his mid-to-late-40s, draws a pension for 30+ years, and receives paid health care up until his Medicare eligibility (as much as 20 years) and supplements to Medicare thereafter. Very, very expensive.
posted by MattD at 10:34 AM on July 9, 2017

That is pretty fuckin awesome.

I'm 51 and, yeah, I can't imagine doing that. Good on her.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:28 AM on July 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

An acquaintance of mine has a very similar story and also launched her volunteer firefighting career in her mid-50s. Her dog went bounding off after a deer while they were out walking and never returned. They looked for months, ultimately theorizing that their friendly Portugese Water Dog had perhaps been stolen since the breed was in high demand following the Obamas' acquisition of Bo.

A year later a volunteer firefighter found him while hiking in a remote wilderness area some 40 miles away. The dog was near death and this guy administered first aid and carried him out. The dog had long since lost his collar, but he was chipped and so he was ultimately returned to his family.

In gratitude, she got her EMT license and joined the local volunteer fire department (the rescuer was actually from another state). Later she became certified in some higher level skills; I know she's rappelled down cliffs to rescue abalone divers and car wreck victims. It's changed her life; in addition to being incredibly fit now, she has acquired much more self confidence, decisiveness and crisis management/delegation skills.

Her story always inspired me. I recently throttled back my professional life and I've been mulling over the idea. Thanks for the additional inspiration!
posted by carmicha at 12:59 PM on July 9, 2017 [24 favorites]

This is super cool and inspiring. Thanks for the post!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:26 PM on July 9, 2017

At 58 a light bulb went off for me. I unscrewed it and went back to sleep.
posted by Splunge at 3:15 PM on July 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

feel like every woman (and PoC) in a traditionally male (and white) job is a freedom fighter of sorts.

Oakland FD is over 60% women as far as I know and many of the firefighters of both genders are PoC. And they are an active urban department that fights a lot do fires which many small departments don't do that much of anymore since building codes have improved safety so much. So a good chunk of experienced urban fire fighters in the country are women and PoC!
posted by fshgrl at 4:56 PM on July 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

My dad became a volunteer firefighter last year at 53. In the ~4 years preceding that, he joined ski patrol, got his EMT license, and joined the county search and rescue team. I honestly had no idea so many of those emergency services were volunteer-based, and I appreciate their work even more knowing that.
posted by R a c h e l at 8:17 AM on July 10, 2017

We actually had a fire today, in a damn monsoon. It was my Kelly (furlough) day, but we're so small we have callbacks. I'm the little one in front with the tattoos and no mustache
posted by sara is disenchanted at 4:04 PM on July 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

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