How long have you been a UI firefighter? Almost four years. Did you work as a firefighter prior to coming here? Yes. I've been a volunteer with the Tolono Fire Department since 1990, so that's where I got started. When did you decide that this was what you wanted to do full-time? After I became a volunteer and started getting involved with the training, I realized this was something I'd enjoy as a career instead of just as a job. So I started taking the tests, and then I got hired here. What kind of tests or training do firefighters undergo? If you're hired off the university testing list, you go through the six-week academy at the Fire Service Institute, which includes the academy's test and the state certification test. We're also required to be EMTs [emergency medical technicians], so generally that's another semester of training, including ambulance ride time. I've taken a lot of classes in addition to what's required, though, such as the five courses in the Officer I series that allow you to move up in the department. Most of the people here take additional training classes at one point or another because they want to. They want to make themselves better firefighters. How many female firefighters are on staff at the UI? Here at the university there are three women firefighters, but I'm the only one on my 11-person shift. How are you accepted by the predominately male department? It's pretty much no big deal that I'm a woman. There isn't any tension here about that. I was raised with brothers so I'd know if there was. What's your workday like? 24 hours on, then 48 hours off. About how many emergency calls do you respond to in a 24-hour shift? It really varies. Probably about eight to10, but it just depends. We run about 1,800 a year, though. What are some of the other, less-visible aspects of the job? We have a regular work schedule in addition to the emergency calls. Some people think we just sit and wait for calls, but actually Monday through Friday we have a regular work routine. We have drills and training throughout the month, and we do building inspections, extinguisher inspections and maintenance. We also conduct fire alarm, fire pump and sprinkler tests. There's a lot we do everyday, plus the emergency runs that interrupt that, so we're always playing catch-up. What do you find most challenging about your occupation? Always being ready. The fact that you never know what's coming is one of the toughest parts, but it's also the most exciting part.There is a certain amount of stress there, but you learn to deal with it. Your education also comes into play, because you never know what you'll need on a given day. Has that stress made your department a tightly knit group? It's definitely evolved into a family-type atmosphere here. You might have the occasional getting-on-your-nerves type thing, but when the chips are down you know they're going to be there for you. So what drives you to fight fires? When the calls come in and you're really needed, that's the reward. It's nice checking up on people after you've helped them and finding out they're going to be OK. You know you've played a part in that, and it makes you feel good.