Just one of the team: Drum Fire Department welcomes first female in more than 2 decades
June 28, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y (June 28, 2012) -- High school seniors weren't the only graduates being recognized for their hard work and accomplishments Friday. Three firefighter recruits joined the ranks of the Fort Drum Fire Department, and one of those graduates is paving the way for women who want to save lives -- one fire, car accident and cat stuck in a tree at a time.
As a mother of two young children, Tyanna Seelbinder, a former access control point guard here, was always interested in becoming a firefighter.
She made her dream a reality about a year ago, when she joined the Northpole Fire Company, in Pamelia.
Being a volunteer firefighter wasn't enough for 27-year-old Seelbinder, so last year she decided to make a career out of it by joining the nearly 75 civilians who make up the Fort Drum Fire Department.
Seelbinder left for the Utica Fire Academy earlier this year, and after 13 weeks of daily physical training, classroom instruction and drills, she and 15 other recruits were proclaimed certified firefighters at Mohawk Valley Community College on June 22.
"I was very lucky to get the opportunity to go to the academy," Seelbinder said. "They have excellent instructors there."
She noted her typical day consisted of cleaning the academy building twice per day, morning PT, classroom and hands-on instruction, and time to study for the next day's test.
Recruits were taught the importance of keeping the fire station spic and span by cleaning the kitchen, gym area, hallways and stairwells.
"It's pretty much (the duties) we would go through here, at the firehouse," she explained of their daily cleaning regimen.
Their daily PT also was an important regimen for the recruits to learn, she noted.
"They have a pretty rigorous PT program," Seelbinder explained.
Their PT was designed to prepare recruits for the Candidate Physical Ability Test -- eight tests that measure the ability of firefighter recruits.
One test consisted of a stair climb, requiring recruits to climb stairs for more than three minutes while carrying 75 pounds in a weighted vest, to simulate the weight of a firefighter's gear.
"The stair climb with the weight was hard," she added.
Other tests involved dragging a hose, carrying equipment and performing a forcible entry into a building.
She said one of the hardest PT challenges she went through while training was walking up and down a ski slope while wearing a 50-pound vest.
Regardless of her gender, Seelbinder -- weighing 120 pounds on a lean frame of 5 feet and 8 inches -- was challenged daily. She said two things helped her get through the training: a positive mindset and a good support system.
"I always went in with an attitude that I can do this," she said, noting she told herself she was going to make it through, and enjoy, the training.
Seelbinder also was the only woman at the academy.
"In a way, it wasn't that different," she explained. "In my last job, I pretty much was the only female on shift, so it's just like having 15 extra brothers."
"We're firefighters, not firemen," noted Capt. Michael Piekielniak, who runs Station No. 1, to which Seelbinder is assigned. "(Seelbinder) is just a regular firefighter, just like everyone who is on the floor right now."
She also appreciated her family's support -- at home and at the firehouse.
"My oldest (son) is extremely proud of me. He came up after my graduation and gave me a hug and kiss. He actually thanked me for letting him come to my graduation," she gushed.
"Having the support of family and friends and the other firefighters helped immensely," she added.
Before heading to the academy, Seelbinder spent about a month with the Fort Drum firefighters, getting to know her co-workers and learning about the department and its standard operating procedures.
Although it's only her first week on the job, Seelbinder radiates confidence, noting she believes the fire department is where she belongs.
"Right now, I'm very proud of myself for just graduating from the academy," she said. "I want to be able to just come here and do my job and just be a great firefighter."
Since Seelbinder worked as a volunteer firefighter, she said she is a little weary about some aspects of being a fulltime firefighter.
"I've been on calls before, and I've seen little kids in car accidents, but I can't think about those things. I just have to go in and do my job," she explained.
Seelbinder noted all graduates leave the academy with 15 certifications. As a firefighter, she will have to be emergency medical technician certified, and she will begin that training in August.
She also will receive airport firefighter training early next year.
Piekielniak said that as Seelbinder learns her job, she will gain more experience by responding to alarms, fighting fires and going to medical calls.
"Right now I just want to get as much training and learn as much as I can to be a good firefighter," Seelbinder said.
Seelbinder is just one of the many Fort Drum firefighters who keep this post's community members safe. Look for another "People" article in The Mountaineer's July 12 issue that features four courageous firefighters -- Lt. Dean Yauger, Travis Donelson, Ron Watson and Scott Sanford -- who responded to a potentially fatal incident last September. The four firefighters' actions were recognized at the Installation Management Command level of the DoD Firefighter Heroism Award competition.