Poe gains necessary skills to serve on MFD

Shannon Poe of Monticello is working on completing the FF2 training course with the MFD. She’s had her application in for a few years, with the hopes of making it on the department. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Shannon Poe of Monticello is all about challenging herself in life. She’s not afraid to step outside her box and see what she can accomplish.

     That said, Poe, 38, is training with the Monticello Fire Department to one-day see herself fighting fires along side the crew.

     In the history of the MFD, you haven’t seen a female on the department. Poe hopes to break that record.

     “I was just looking for something new to do with my life,” she said.

     After living in Monticello for quite some time, Poe worked for Camp Courageous in respite care and volunteer director for several years, she said she was looking for another way to get involved in the community.

     “And I want to meet other people,” she said.

     Last year, Poe completed the Fire Fighter 1 course with others at the Monticello Fire Station, with about eight people in the class. Now, she’s working on completing the Fire Fighter 2 course, with at least 16 others. The only difference, Poe isn’t even on the department yet. Everyone else in her classes took the courses because they were already serving on either the MFD or another local department. (The MFD offers FF1 and FF2 instructional courses for anyone serving or looking to serve on a neighboring department.)

     So while Poe continues to learn the ropes, literally, she hopes to eventually serve on the MFD. She’s had her application in for about three years now.

     “It’s quit a long list,” she said.

     A few weeks ago, the Cedar Rapids Gazette published an article about how small towns are struggling to gain volunteers for their fire departments. In Monticello, that’s just not an issue. The roster maxes out at 35 firefighters, many of which are related. The MFD retirement age is 55, with a handful set to age-out in a year or two.

     The courses include bookwork and hands-on practical instruction. Poe said the downfall to taking the courses before getting on the department is that she can’t practice the skills she’s learning during practice burns. Only those serving on the department, on the department’s insurance, can take part. In the meantime, she gains valuable information through the in-house practices.

     She plans to take the firefighter certification once she makes it on the department.

     “It seems I’m doing it backwards,” Poe said. “But I never when I’ll get on (the department), and this is a good way to get to know the guys.”

     So far, Poe said everyone on the department has been really welcoming and friendly, making her feel comfortable with a group that already knows one another.

     Aside from being first aid and CPR certified, and trained as a lifeguard, Poe said she’s never explored something like this before now.

     “I just asked myself, ‘What’s something else I could do?’” The answer, become a firefighter.

     Before starting the training courses, Poe said she contacted Marv Kelchen, the MFD training officer about joining in.

     The FF1 course involves basic firefighting information, she said, learning to take direction on scene. FF2 involves building on the basics and taking on leadership roles on scene, and learning about the gear and equipment. Poe said there are no requirements or qualifications to take part in the courses.

     “You just have to have first aid and CPR,” she said.

     Poe is expected to do the same routine as everyone else. So far, she’s proud to say she’s able to accomplish everything eh guys have done.

     “I was worried about it at first,” she said. “But everyone has his/her strong suits and weaknesses; that’s why you lean on others in the department.”

     Poe said she’s given herself credit with what’s she’s been able to accomplish.

     In general, Poe said she likes to learn, and enjoys expanding on her realm of knowledge.

     “I’ve gained valuable skills and I feel like a part of the community,” she said.

     In the interim until she gets on the department, Poe said it’s been fun. “I just appreciate them letting me join in,” she said.

     Once her name gets called, Poe will already have the courses under her belt. “It’s a benefit when my application does come up.”


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