Female firefighter finding fulfillment

Published 10:38 am Sunday, August 15, 2010

Special to the Daily News

Volunteer fire departments depend on many people to run smoothly, and the Pungo River Volunteer Fire Department is no exception.
Many people in volunteer fire departments have to structure their volunteer hours with the department around full-time jobs.
Lynn Paul, a firefighter with the Pungo River Volunteer Fire Department, is one such volunteer. She joined the department in 2008 because of her interest in the department and its mission.
As others on the department’s roster have done, Paul had to complete 36 hours of training during a year’s time to be listed on that roster. Her training involved participating in classes on basic fire-fighting skills. Paul was exposed to topics like traffic control, how to enter a building and how to use protective equipment. She then had sessions where she was required to demonstrate what she learned during her training.
Part of Paul’s training included obtaining certification to drive emergency vehicles. The training involved classroom work and road courses.
All instructors teaching the department’s personnel have some professional fire-fighting experience or attended a fire-service academy. Those instructors usually come from the Pantego or Washington fire departments.
Paul said that being a female firefighter in the mostly-male fire department does not present a problem nor is it an uncommon occurrence.
“The Pantego department also has women. I have heard women responding to calls in other areas as well. Our department also works very well together. The guys at the department were very patient and kind when I was first starting there,” Paul said.
The Pungo River department has 30 firefighters on its roster, four of them women. Some of the department’s members are members of multiple fire departments.
Paul’s first time responding to a fire as a firefighters was when a church on Beech Ridge Road caught fire. She said that first experience went well for her.
“I went out and was able to be on the line holding the hose. Lightning had struck the church, but we were able to put it out,” she said.
Paul recalled one of the more intense days of her experiences with the department.
“It was very windy and dry on a Sunday afternoon. We went to locations near Slatestone, Plymouth and the country club. We ended up responding to three fires in one day, from the time we went out to the time we came back,” she said.
During the three-county Evans Road fire in the summer of 2008, one of the largest wildfires in the state’s recent history, the department provided mutual aid to other departments fighting that fire, which burned a little more than 40,000 acres in Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties.
The department meets Thursday nights to inspect equipment or review the department’s performances at recent fires. The most calls the department received in a year was in the low 60s.