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Firefighter small but stands tall

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LEHI — Amanda Hadfield is apparently just the right height.

Hadfield, who this summer became the first female firefighter for the volunteer Lehi Fire Department, is big enough to carry her weight and yet small enough to crawl into spaces male firefighters cannot navigate.

"She's one that is kind of quiet but gets the job done. For a person of her size and ability, there are always things to do," said Fire Chief Dale Ekins. "I remember here a month or so ago, we had an attic fire and she got up in there with no problem. She's one of the few we have who is small enough to get into some of the spaces we need to get to."

Ekins said in the two months the 5-foot, 5-inch Hadfield has been on the squad, she's already known for her size and skill.

"We had an animal emergency where we had a cat that had crawled into an attic and had a litter of kittens," he said.

The homeowners could hear the cats crying but couldn't reach them. Dispatchers handling the case called specifically for Hadfield, "and she went up and got them out," he said.

In addition, the 21-year-old Hadfield brings a sensitivity to her work and to the public that sometimes escapes the male firefighters, Ekins said.

"We try," he said, "but she just carries a little more sensitivity as a young lady than a lot of us do."

Ekins said Hadfield not only is the first female firefighter to join the department since it was organized in the early 1900s but the first female to have applied for the job.

"We look for certain things — physical ability, training and daytime availability. She had all of those things," Ekins said.

She was also known to the crew because she worked the past year on the Lehi ambulance squad. She works at American Fork Hospital as an emergency medical technician.

Hadfield said she heard about the firefighting job from her boyfriend, who recently joined the department. She signed up for some basic courses at the fire station — and loved it.

"I'd never really thought about firefighting, but the boy I was dating suggested it and I liked the classes," she said. "Plus, I got to know everyone."

There wasn't much debate about her qualifications when Hadfield submitted her application, Ekins said. She passed all of the tests, including carrying a 160-pound man down a rescue ladder.

"I do a little weight training, and I've always been into sports. I grew up with sisters, but we're all kind of tomboys," Hadfield said. "It — the training — wasn't too hard."

However, Hadfield has found that field experience is quite different from what is learned in a class situation.

Firefighting is hot, hard work, and sometimes the situations can be emotionally traumatic.

"You have to learn to distance your emotions, for one thing," Hadfield said. "But anytime I deal with children, it's still really hard. Fortunately, there are the other people here to talk to. They provide support."

Hadfield said she hasn't run into much resistance to her presence as the only woman on the 40-member firefighting team.

"They help me out and they also let me do my job," she said.

Years ago, Ekins said, there was some concern among the firefighters over hiring women, but the actual transition has been free of problems. And, he said, there's room for more.

E-MAIL: haddoc@desnews.com