Maureen Hickey is Milford’s first professional female firefighter.
While Judy Hessberger of Milford was actually the first female firefighter in Milford, serving as a volunteer in 1978 for Company 2 out of Fort Trumbull Beach before the department became a fully paid department in 1983, Hickey is the first woman hired by the city to serve on the department.
Hickey, 27, was hired in January, and is a probationary firefighter, meaning she hasn’t received a permanent assignment yet. She will work “detail,” learning the different stations, apparatus and areas of the city, until her probationary period ends Jan. 26, 2016 — one year from her hire date.
Firefighting wasn’t Hickey’s intended career, she told Womenyoushouldknow.net in a June interview.
“After graduating from college with a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design, she had a lot of trouble finding a job in her field, and ended up taking a clerical position at a medical office. Maureen realized quickly that being in an office wasn’t for her,” the article states.
The new firefighter credits the change in her career choice to her mother, who brought the idea of firefighting to her attention.
“My mother knew that I was not happy in the first job I obtained after college,” Hickey told The Milford Mirror. “I had tried for a long time to get a position in my field of study. However, it was not turning out to be a successful venture. I was growing more frustrated, and she mentioned that she had seen an advertisement for a firefighting test. Although I hadn’t thought of it before, it seemed like it would be a really good fit for me.”
She said her parents have always been her number one fans, encouraging her to do what makes her happy.
“They taught me that a lot of times in life, things won’t go your way but you can’t give up on something you truly want,” she said. “If you aren’t successful the first time, there is always next time. Those lessons they taught me really helped to keep me focused on getting a position as a firefighter. There were many times when I felt defeated or discouraged, but I had to take a step back and look at the big picture, and I knew it was just a bump in the road.”
Training for the job
After working as a volunteer firefighting with her local community to be sure it was what she wanted to do, Hickey began training.
Training certainly was demanding, Hickey told The Mirror.
“I trained by doing a lot of functional movements. I tried, and still try, to mimic the actions of the test and the firefighting profession in my workouts, such as stair climbs, which I would do with a weighted vest. I also did a lot of work with a heavy tire and sledge hammer to build up my upper body and core strength. I also worked on my endurance, since that is an extremely important part of this profession.”
The physical test was difficult, but Hickey prepared. She said she knew that as a female, she would have to prepare a little more than some of her male counterparts.
“I like that the test doesn’t change its standards for male or female candidates,” Hickey said. “If you want to be a firefighter, you have to be able to do the job of a firefighter successfully, which is what this test is designed for.”
She realized her weaknesses, and worked on those areas, readying for the physical test, which included a three-minute step mill with a 75-pound weighted vest, followed by a hose drag, equipment carry, ladder raise and forcible entry simulation, search, dummy drag, and ceiling breach/pull, all while wearing a 50-pound weighted vest.
Hails from Pleasantville
Hickey grew up in Pleasantville, N.Y., and went to Pleasantville High School. She graduated in 2005 and went to Manhattanville College, graduating in 2009 with a bachelor of fine arts degree.
She is the first firefighter in her family, though she has several family members who were police officers.
She said being Milford’s first female firefighter is an “incredible honor.”
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work for this community,” Hickey said. “The Milford Fire Department has a very impressive reputation and to be a part of such a great department is very exciting.”
While it’s great being the first female firefighter here, she said that’s not something she focuses on. She just wants to be the best firefighter she can be.
“All of the men who were hired before me and with me worked just as hard, if not harder, to be a part of this department and I don’t feel that I deserve any more recognition than they do,” Hickey said. “All of these firefighters have incredible knowledge and experiences about this job and they have been very helpful in teaching me a lot in my short time here so far.”
The Milford Fire Department
There are 116 positions in the Milford Fire Department, including inspectors, fire marshal and others. Fire Department Spokesman Greg Carman said Hickey is demonstrating every day that she deserves to be part of the team.
“Firefighter Hickey joining us is more of a credit to her determination and hard work to prepare herself for this career,” Carman said. “This is not a career for just anyone and she is proving to us every day that she will have a very successful career with us.”
Hickey is happy she changed career plans and became a firefighter.
“It’s the best job in the world,” she said. “I love it.”