Half a year in, Green wanted to meet people and build a sense of community that she did not yet have here. So, after spotting an advertisement in the local paper, Green applied to join the Whitecourt Fire Department as a recruit.
"I thought it was a good opportunity to make use of my spare time and meet some people that had the same values and drive that I did. I had no idea what to expect when I joined because I did not know anything about it. I went through the recruiting class, and I was hooked from there," said Green.
She couldn't have known it then, but years later, that choice to seek out like-minded people would turn into a new career path. At the beginning of June, Green received a promotion to Deputy Fire Chief and Safety Coordinator for the Town of Whitecourt. Up until, and including, the role of Captain, which Green held for seven months, positions at the department are volunteer. The only full-time positions are two Deputy Fire Chiefs and one Fire Chief.
Out on emergency scenes, Green will be in a commanding role and help set priorities and operational objectives. "Administratively, coming here full time has increased my responsibilities and planning for training. Before, I was taking on individual parts of programs, whereas now I am coordinating and planning larger things," she explained.
Going to the full-time position meant that Green had to decide between her two careers. "I was an Emergency Response Officer for Alberta Environment & Parks, and it was a really rewarding position. I had a great team. It was kind of the role that I had always envisioned having when I was going to school." The job had a lot of overlap with her position at the fire department. "I contribute my success in that role with knowing fire department operations. I loved both positions."
If only she could do both. "For my family life, it was a challenge to try and manage priorities for two different workplaces and to want to put everything I have into both. When the full-time opportunity came up with the fire department, I had to do some soul seeking on where I wanted to go in my career and where my heart sat. The fire department won that. I want to be part of this on a full-time basis and be part of something that our volunteers are really happy and driven to be part of," explained Green.
Anyone curious about being a firefighter should ask questions. "Some details might be hard to understand from the outside, so feel free to give us a call and ask. Many people are confused about how you can have a job and be a firefighter or have a young family. I can tell you, sometimes it is tough, but it's definitely rewarding to my family, to me, and even to my career. So many skills are transferable. It is a place where you can build and work on yourself and serve your community. I don't know anywhere else where you can have the opportunities that you have here."
As for how volunteer firefighters manage to swing jobs and families while being community rockstars, Green said that each individual gets to decide the hours they can put in. "We have some pretty basic minimums. Then, if you have a drive or goal to get to a higher level, we open that up and give those opportunities. Some people can only do the minimums because of their work-life and family life, and we need those people too. We need people at all levels and differing abilities. One person's strengths could be another person's weakness, and we work as a team."
Over the years, Green and the other members have taken countless training sessions. "Every year, we put in more and more to be able to handle the increased amount of calls and the more advanced level training and different requirements that we need to be at an adequate level for the community."
For Green, the family that she found was the best part of the journey. "So many of us moved here from other provinces and far away places. We had people at that time that came in from Australia and the Philippines. It was a nice, diverse community. In one year, there were nine babies born to the fire hall. That was a big bonding time for us, especially all of us who did not have family here at the time."
With a family of her own now, Green said the relationships that her children have with other department members' children are another reason she loves her job. As for her being a supermom, Green said her kids think it is cool. "They were born into this lifestyle, and they don't know anything different. So to them, the fire department and being a firefighter is pretty cool, but it is no big deal at the same time," she chuckled.
One really cool thing her new position comes with is a department truck. The sides blazoned with logos, and fire department markings make the vehicle stand out in her driveway. "It warms your heart when you have a little two or three-year-old walking down the sidewalk, and their face lights up because the fire truck is there. It's really exciting to play that part in a child's life."
Green said that she looks forward to the day when they can open up the bay doors and invite the community inside again. "Getting the kids coming in and seeing them get excited is my favourite part." She said that making sure children know that firefighters are there to help is essential. "When we are there with them or their friends in an emergency situation, we are their friends. We are there to make things better and to comfort them."
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press