TEXARKANA, Ark. – (KTAL/KMSS) The fire department’s first and only female firefighter is retiring.
Virginia Lee, Battalion Chief at the Texarkana, Arkansas Fire Department. has been on the job for 28 years. Her last shift ends at 6:30 Tuesday morning.
“I liked riding the fire truck and fightin fire,” she said. Lee initially wanted to be a paramedic, but after going through the fire academy, she was hooked. She remembers the words of a fire department veteran on her first day. “He told me, said ‘this is the best job girl. You get to drive fast, kick in doors, spray water and little kids love you.'”
Lee wants to encourage other women that the department is not just for boys. “I’ve seen little girls do some amazing things so, if they just get ready, they can do it.”
Lee’s coworkers agree, calling her a great role model. “She’s elevated through every rank as a firefighter and we’re just waiting on the next one, when’s the next girl coming?” asked Captain Jeff Pritchett.
Over the years, the fire department has seen a drop in applicants. Lee said there were 108 when she applied. Now, that number is closer to 20. “I’ve had people tell me ‘I watched Backdraft, I couldn’t do that it’s scary.’ You might spend 2 percent of your time fighting fires. The rest of the time you’re going to car wrecks, to illegal burns, and you’re going to fire alarms, and you’re going to schools to talk to children, and you’re doing tours at the station, and you’re cleaning the station and washing the trucks,” Lee said.
Though leaving is bittersweet for Lee, she’s looking forward to spending more time with her grandchildren. “I can’t imagine being 28 years anywhere else,” she said.
For more information on what it takes to become a firefighter, visit http://arkansas.txkusa.org/?page_id=2260.