A terrible car accident, a serious medical issue, a house burning out of control.
When most of us are faced with an overwhelming emergency, there’s only one thing we can do.
Call someone like Tricia Faimon.
She’s a probationary firefighter-paramedic at the Norfolk Fire Division, and she specializes in helping to set right situations that require a high level of expertise.
She also happens to be the only current full-time female firefighter in Norfolk.
Faimon has all of her firefighter certifications through the Nebraska State Fire Marshall Training Division as well as completion of a two-year paramedic program.
She is held to the same physical standards and training requirements as her male co-workers, who she said are supportive and always pushing her to reach her potential.
“I don’t know that I’m treated any differently and, in fact, with the particular shift that I’m on, I’ve known some of the guys for even longer than I’ve been apart of the Norfolk fire family,” Faimon said.
She met some through her previous work at Hadar Volunteer Fire & Rescue and some through the Firefighter Combat Challenge.
“The camaraderie of everybody in the department is what I think I love the most. I’m not saying we don’t have our brother and sister fights from time to time, that’s just what families do. But those guys are my family away from family,” Faimon said.
Which is especially important to her since her own family is nearly 300 miles away in Lawrence, Nebraska.
“These guys are your family for 24 hours, or sometimes longer, at a time. Everybody’s supportive on the department, but even off the department — whether it’s helping somebody tin a side on their metal building or whatever — they’re willing to help you outside of the job as well,” Faimon said.
IN THE U.S., only about 7% of firefighters are women, and only 4% are career firefighters, like Faimon.
The traditionally male-dominated field is well-known for requiring a high level of physical strength and endurance, necessary for the rigors of the job.
Norfolk Fire Chief Scott Cordes said Faimon is doing very well at the department, and he considers her “a great addition to our team.”
There have only been three other women who have served at the Norfolk Fire Division as full-time firefighters over the years, and Faimon said she sometimes sees surprise from people when she responds to a scene.
“I’ve come across a few people that went, ‘Oh, you’re a girl.’ Yeah, last I checked. I had a patient one day that had fallen, so we basically just needed to help them up. ... They made the comment that, ‘It’s a good thing that there’s a couple of strong guys here, too,’ ” Faimon said laughing.
“But I have two little neighbor boys that think it’s cool what I do, and they’re always asking if I got to drive the fire truck. They could not care less if I’m a male or a female,” she said.
And when it comes to an emergency situation, it’s only common sense that most people would just be happy to have Faimon’s help.
Her passion for helping those who need it is the biggest reason she’s in the field, after all.
“Whether it’s a fire or EMS situation, just being able to help is the most important. Even if it’s something as simple as holding someone’s hand. Maybe they don’t even require going to the hospital, maybe they just need to see their doctor. But sometimes I think they just need someone to talk to more than anything,” Faimon said.
But unfortunately, not every call is so simple.
Sometimes Faimon has to provide emergency triage in critical situations where someone is dying or could potentially die if not rushed to a higher level of care.
“Just being able to think quickly on your feet of how you can help them, but also trying to stay calm in a situation where most people would go, ‘Yeah, I don’t want anything to do with that’ because it’s scary or there’s a lot of blood. That challenge and being able to do something to help is why we do it,” she said.
She would definitely recommend the job to other women who are interested becoming firefighters, Faimon said.
“I think it’s important to have diversity in any job. ... Absolutely, if you have a passion, a desire to work hard, I think you can be anything that you want,” she said.
Faimon’s six months of on-the-job probation — which every full-time firefighter in Norfolk must complete upon hiring — will be up in October, after she passes another written and physical test.
Her pinning ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 17.