The Fire Department in Queen Creek is 15 years old with a staff of 70 firefighters. Of that number, seven are women who respond to the call of our community. Two of them sat down with us to discuss what it is like to serve the town of Queen Creek. Kristi Scott greeted us at the door of Fire Station #3. By the time Sarah Raczkowski joined us for the interview, she had just come off duty, being up all night, although she hardly seemed tired. Both Kristi and Sarah have been firefighters with Queen Creek for 4 1/2 years. Sarah, who hails from Flagstaff, has actually been working with Emergency Services for a bit longer than that for about 8 years in total. I asked them what attracted them to their careers in the first place.
Kristi, originally from Peoria, says her family has a history of being in service, but mainly with the police. Her move to be a firefighter instead was met with approval however from her family. For Kristi the path to service was natural. For Sarah, the decision to follow a career in firefighting came about in high school. The turning point for her was when she had the chance to do a ride-along with a firetruck at 17 years old. For both women, it was the desire to do some good and serve the community that really hooked them. Along with, they admit, some element of the adrenaline rush too.
That energy and drive are needed as Queen Creek's population continues to grow, and as a result, so too have the demands on the town's Fire Department. Most calls are less to do with fire and more with accidents, whether it be people or animals. Still, the women are eager to apply their training and gain experience. Both Kristi and Sarah have indicated that the town has been very supportive and welcoming of them. Kristi also indicated the amazing support of their battalion chiefs too, saying she felt 'super blessed'.
The life of a firefighter depends on the calls they get, as Sarah notes, those can 'ebb and flow'. They work two days on and four days off, sometimes with little sleep when on duty. Still, Sarah who is a mom to two and Kristi who is a mom of one, find their own kind of balance in it all. I asked them to share a favorite or memorable call, to which they laughed as they undoubtedly had too many to count. Overall, Sarah stated it all came down to whether you made a difference that day. She said it 'confirmed why I entered service'.
Kristi recalled a time when they had helped one particular lady during an emergency call. 'Two months later she shows up at the station with cookies.' Kristi says, and that simple act was enough to reassure her that their work was appreciated. They are also appreciated by their crew, a family away from family when they are on call. They cook together, live side by side, as well as rely on one another when they rush out to another call. Kristi and Sarah are just two examples of the kind of women who dedicate their lives to serving the needs of their town.
Detective Lauren Wallace works in the Special Victims Unit for the Queen Creek Police Department. Originally from Minnesota, she has lived in Arizona for the last 15 years. She began with the Tempe police in patrol and worked her way up through various roles. She spent 14 years with Tempe before being recruited for Queen Creek's brand new police force. As part of the inaugural group of officers, Lauren had the opportunity to use her experience and knowledge to help create policies and procedures for the town's new police agency.
The difference in Tempe to a smaller community like Queen Creek was certainly a change of pace. However, Lauren says starting afresh with an entirely new team of officers meant they created a fast family. The camaraderie is a big part of what she loves about her work. The other aspect of which is helping people, each day brings something new.
Working in the Special Victims Unit means that Lauren has to deal with some heavy subjects, but she takes the view that doing some good and being a 'voice for the victims' is worth tackling some difficult issues. As a married mom of two, Lauren says that having positive outlets is important due to the nature of the work. Her husband of 14 years, Nathan, would understand as he is also a police officer.
Lauren became interested in the police force when she went to college and met an officer who gave her advice. She said she was looking to do 'something different' as well as pursue a career that would have a 'positive impact'. Lauren found that and more in her role as a police officer. Here in Queen Creek, she has met officers that have been recruited from around the country, and given her different perspectives too. Lauren's passion for service is clear, just one of many helping to keep Queen Creek that much safer.
"... Sarah stated it all came down to whether you made a difference that day. She said it 'confirmed why I entered service."
"... Lauren has to deal with some heavy subjects, but she takes the view that... being a 'voice for the victims' is worth tackling some difficult issues."