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Juno’s Firefighter of the Year at the Community Service Awards

Juno’s Firefighter of the Year at the Community Service Awards
Capital City Fire Rescue volunteer firefighter Ella Piatt. (Photo courtesy of Ella Piatt)

Ella Piatt was recently named Firefighter of the Year by Capital City Fire Rescue. She sat down with KTOO’s Chloe Pleznak to talk about how she initially got involved in this often dangerous, not always worthwhile job and even offered some words of wisdom for future firefighters.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Chloe Pleznak: So Ella, first of all, congratulations on your recent recognition as Capital City’s Firefighter of the Year. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into firefighting?

Ella Piatt: When covid came I started I was working a lot from home and just everything was closed. And I started a second job at the airport during the COVID effort and the CCFR was in charge of that effort at the time. So I got to know a lot of the firefighters out there. And then Chief Mead actually came up to me and asked if I wanted to join his upcoming Firefighter 1 class that was happening that February and I was like, why not? I didn’t have anything else going on. So I thought I might as well take up the challenge.

Chloe Pleznak: What is the hardest thing about being a volunteer firefighter?

Ella Piatt: I would say, like, comically, trying to reach everything with tall engines, but that’s why we help each other out. As most people would say, I am height challenged. But other than that, it’s just normal physical exertion.

Chloe Pleznak: So what’s one of the better things, something you find joy in?

Ella Piatt: I just love being on my toes, and it’s great to have the community and careers staff helping out. And, you know, we’re just a great team. So I really like that friendship. And yes, supporting each other. And just, yeah, support from all of us.

Chloe Pleznak: What was your reaction when you heard about winning this award?

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Ella Piatt: I was very surprised. I was in the middle of eating food. So I was at the banquet, so I was very surprised. I wasn’t, yeah, I wasn’t expecting.

Volunteer firefighter Ella Piatt stands on top of a Capital City Fire Rescue truck. (Photo courtesy of Ella Piatt)

Chloe Pleznak: They didn’t tell you ahead of time that you won?

Ella Piatt: No, I know, they sent email nominations. So I knew they were getting awards, but I didn’t think I was, especially with all those amazing firefighters, you know, career staff and other volunteers, I didn’t think I was, It was a surprise. I was a little taken aback, I really had to think, think again, it had to be like, was that my name? Or was it someone else’s name?

Chloe Pleznak: So that’s just a question I have, and it’s really just for any little girls or guys that might be listening to KTOO, and maybe they want to grow up to be a volunteer firefighter, any advice or words of wisdom for their What will happen for

Ella Piatt: Yes, I would say go for it. And just be open minded, because you’re going to learn things that maybe you’re not so good at, and things that you’re really good at, but that’s going to help define who you are. And it definitely dawned on me, you know, I never knew I’d be breaking windows during a fire or anything. I just didn’t think I’d ever do anything like what I’m doing. And then I’ve also learned where I’m at, some of my weaknesses and, you know, just I’ve learned to think about, oh maybe I should work on that, or, yeah, it made me realize that I have a lot of power. I definitely, highly encourage it, definitely make them do it.

Chloe Pleznak: Were there any challenges you faced as a woman in this male dominated field?

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Ella Piatt: I think it’s definitely progressed more, not more. I do, I’ve had events where it’s just like, I think some people think I can’t do it all on my own, like, I have to be with my partner who’s really with me, now , my partner will be there and like no. I just say, ‘You know, I’m my own person, like, I don’t need it, I’m not defined by the person I’m with, by a man.’ So I definitely those are some challenges. But then again, that’s not everyone. The world is changing and too much is being recognized. I mean, we have a young captain who is ahead of everything and I think he is an incredible captain. So it’s definitely making progress. And I think it’s definitely opened up more opportunities for women.

Chloe Pleznak: Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. And congratulations. Looks like it was very well deserved. And yes, thank you for your community volunteering. That’s great.

Ella Piatt: Thanks a lot.

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