GIRL ON FIRE: Andrea Brown

Becoming a firefighter had always piqued Andrea Brown’s interest, but one family dinner solidified her desire to join the ranks of our community heroes. She was talking with her uncle, a retired captain, about what it really took, and discovered firefighters aren’t just on the frontlines of flames. They have to handle everything from medical traumas to roadside emergencies. She was sold.

“You have to be a jack of all trades,” Andrea says. “I knew I wanted to do something that is both physically demanding and mentally challenging. Any other job didn’t seem fulfilling enough to me.”

Even before that fortuitous conversation with her uncle, Andrea’s family played a vital role in her choosing one of the most demanding professions around. She had watched her father work extremely hard her whole life, and her parents always encouraged both of their kids to do what made them happy.

“My dad was extremely excited when he found out I wanted to be a firefighter,” Amanda recalls. “The highlight of my entire life was getting pinned by my dad at my academy graduation.” 

Reaching that milestone of her career was certainly something to remember but getting to that point was anything but easy. The infallible work ethic and perseverance she saw in her parents were skills she would soon come to discover in herself.

Andrea went to the University of Nevada, Reno to earn a degree in Community Health Science, all while working for a private ambulance company. She was an EMT for two years and a paramedic for two years and got hired with a department in 2017 through consortium, however, she got demerited out for making too many mistakes on the fireground.

Although the failure was devastating, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Andrea reflected on her time and realized her lack of experience had left her mentally unprepared and timid. Instead of accepting this as her fate, Andrea refused to be a victim. Determined to learn from her shortcomings, she spent the next two years preparing for her next opportunity. Andrea hit the gym hard every single day while working four 12-hour shifts as a paramedic and acting as a reserve firefighter for a rural department where she honed skills she lacked in the academy.

Andrea tested not one, not two, but three more times before finally getting hired again. She actually got offered a job by two departments: the one she demerited out of first, as well as Carson City Fire Department (CCFD). She had determination and newfound confidence to thank for that.

“My second time going through the academy was a lot easier,” Andrea remembers. “I became a leader and people said I came back a whole new person. I was stronger, more confident, and more aggressive with my tactics. I believe I proved I deserved to be given a second chance.” 

Ultimately, she chose CCFD because of the atmosphere and has been working as a firefighter and paramedic for more than a year.

 “I’m biased, but CCFD is the best department in Northern Nevada and I’m extremely excited to be here,” Andrea said. “I love my job and the fact that I wasn’t successful my first time around makes me appreciate it even more.”  

At just 27-years old, Andrea is the only female in her department. She now has 55 more brothers to call her second family. But despite being the lone woman, Andrea doesn’t expect special treatment from anyone…or anything.

“Fire doesn’t go easier on you if you’re a female,” says Andrea. “I don’t think I’m special for being a female. We all take the same tests and go through the same hardships and yes, we even get paid the same.”

 “Females are built physically different than males,” she continues. “You have to respect that, and understand it takes years to be in good enough shape for this job. Respect the job and the people you work with by coming in prepared, and you will be respected in return.”

Andrea realized she was going against a “social norm” by entering the fire service, but also knew that she was not the first, nor would she be the last female to pull on a firefighter’s turnout. She knew working hard, learning from her mistakes, and having a good attitude would get her far, regardless of gender.

“I’ve never been undermined or treated poorly because I’m a female,” states Andrea. “You should be preparing physically the day you decide you want to become a firefighter, no matter who you are.”

Andrea has already overcome a lot of adversity to get to where she is now but understands her journey has just begun. She plans on continuing to sharpen her skills, get stronger, and strive to be good at everything, as the job requires. One day she dreams of being called Captain, but until then, she looks forward to becoming more involved in the academy and being part of the educational process for new recruits, just like she was not too long ago.

“This is not a glamorous job,” Andrea declares. “It takes physical and mental grit. But I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate the men I work with for taking me in as one of their own and accepting me.”