Just over six minutes into a story interview on February 12 at The Tribune with Sierrah Mooney, the loud noise of the fire siren went off a block west. Mooney instantly arose from her seat at the round table in the office, ran to the door, briefly fumbled with unlocking the door— locked from the inside— before opening it and running out the door without an explanation.
She was headed to the Greenbush Fire Department to go on a fire run. About 40 minutes later, she returned from this run to finish the interview, one she was doing for the exact reason she had to leave it— she had become the first woman firefighter on the Greenbush Fire Department.
After a vote by Greenbush Fire Department members, Sierrah Mooney officially became a firefighter on the department in mid-January. In the process, she made department history.
Mooney discussed the decision to eventually join the department, including the support to do so, her experience so far, her reception on the department, her thoughts on accomplishing this history-making achievement, her message to other women and young girls thinking of joining the fire department and what she looks forward to most about working on the department.
Greenbush Fire Chief Randy Jenson also commented on the achievement, the department’s decision-making process, requirements, and training to become a firefighter, and Mooney’s performance to this point.
Mooney remembers a time when the fire siren went off in Greenbush while she was heading uptown for something. She doesn’t remember the exact specific date this happened, estimating a couple months ago, but does remember the thought that drifted through her mind as she sat at the stop sign letting the first trucks go by that day.
“I was like, you know, it’d be cool to join the fire department,” Mooney said. “… When I was younger, I always wanted to be an EMT, and I tried getting into the classes in Roseau, but with COVID, they couldn’t really figure out a plan on how to do it or whatever. So I was like, okay, maybe the next step is the fire department.”
Fire Chief Jenson talked to Mooney’s dad, Danny, and asked him if his daughter Sierrah wanted to be on the fire department. Danny came home and asked her and she thought it would be cool, but set the thought to the side for a little while. Jenson asked her again and, this time, she said yes.
Having the support from her family to do this, she made this decision to join the department for the opportunity to help out her community. So far, she has appreciated the feeling doing this job has given her.
“Every time that the siren goes off, I just get that adrenaline,” Mooney said. “… (I will) be able to help the community when they’re in need.”
Mooney went on her first ever fire run as part of the department on January 27 at about 4 am. On this first run, her mother Joni did get worried, not able to fall asleep knowing it was her daughter’s first call.
“When I came back, she texted me,” Mooney said. “She’s like, ‘Are you okay? How’d it go?’… I’m like, ‘Mom, I’m fine.’”
Fire Chief Jenson said she and Aaron Schneider— the other member to join department at the same time as her— have performed well to this point.
As for Jenson’s reaction to Mooney joining the department, he was excited about it. He explained how the department is not discriminatory, always being open to women joining.
“There’s a lot of fire departments around, whether they’re volunteer or full-time that have female firefighters on their departments,” Jenson said. “And they’re great. They’re doing a very good job.”
Several women, Jenson said, have inquired about joining the Greenbush Fire Department in the past, but none have gone as far as Mooney in the process.
“When we do our process on bringing on new firefighters, it (Mooney joining) was received extremely well at the department,” Jenson said.
Outside her work as a firefighter, Mooney, a 2018 Greenbush-Middle River graduate, began working at Central Boiler-Altoz in Greenbush last August. There, she works on the mower line. Other than that, she said her two nieces and two nephews keep her on her feet.
Mooney has a message to young girls and women thinking about doing what she just did.
“Being a firefighter isn’t just a man’s job,” Mooney said. “You know, women can do it too.”
She didn’t participate in the Explorer Program as a high school student, but wishes she would have. The Greenbush Fire Department offers this program, one giving local junior and senior boys and girls some real-life firefighting experiences.
Now, Mooney just looks forward to this opportunity to serve her community— to respond those fire siren calls in an instant— and encourages other interested women to do the same.
“Young girls that are doing the Explorer Program, if they do find the interest in it, (I encourage them) to keep going with it,” Mooney said, “join the fire department, and just kind of keep that trail moving.”
To see the complete story, read the February 24 issue of The Tribune in print or online.