Mass. town hires its 1st female firefighter

Clinton Firefighter-EMT Kacie Ortiz comes to the department with EMS experience and said she is eager to complete her full fire academy training


Ken Cleveland
Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.

CLINTON, Mass. — "I love it here," Kacie Ortiz said. As the town's first female firefighter, she is fulfilling her goal of becoming a firefighter while adding a new perspective to the ranks.

"I feel like I'm part of the team," Ortiz said, looking forward to the job.

Clinton Firefighter-EMT Kacie Ortiz stands with Fire Chief Michael Lutes after starting last week as the first woman to join the department. (Photo/Ken Cleveland, Telegram & Gazette)
Clinton Firefighter-EMT Kacie Ortiz stands with Fire Chief Michael Lutes after starting last week as the first woman to join the department. (Photo/Ken Cleveland, Telegram & Gazette)

Having only started last week, she is working on training.

But she arrived already trained as an EMT, a role she had for a private firm before being selected for the Clinton position.

Originally from Florida, Ortiz said she grew up in Athol, moving to Fitchburg when she got married.

She said she had wanted to do something in the field.

Three years ago, "I had goal of becoming a firefighter," and got on the Civil Service list for Fitchburg. After talking with someone about Clinton, she got onto Clinton's list.

Ortiz is already ready to handle some aspects, such as ambulance driving and tech.

The 32-year-old is eager to expand that to fire training.

In February, she is slated to attend the Fire Academy and get the full training. She said she is looking forward to the firefighting aspect of the job and doing more emergency response work besides ambulance work.

And "trying new things," Ortiz said. "I would love to learn water rescue."

She is looking forward to learning "all the parts that intimidate me."

She said she'll adapt and looks forward to new things such as SCUBA diving. Such activities may be new to her, but she has always had a range of interests.

"I grew up around guys," Ortiz said and worked in a mechanic shop. With two brothers and two sisters, she is the youngest.

She was into cars and welding so can hold her own in traditionally male-dominated skills.

"Those are the things that interest me," Ortiz said.

Fire Chief Michael Lutes said she was the first female on Clinton's list in the top tier the town could select from.

"She was the first I interviewed," Lutes said.

He said having grown up with brothers, in the fire department she will have 25 brothers.

And the department had to make some changes to accommodate Ortiz.

The building never had separate facilities.

Lutes said the 1980s building itself is not big enough for the number of people it now holds.

Recently, lockers were added as well as a new shower for women.

But the men will also get upgrades to their showers.

The importance of showers has increased as firefighters routinely clean up after responding to situations where they may be exposed to chemicals and decontamination is crucial to the safety of firefighters, Captain Ken Janda noted.

Janda, who sat in on the interviews, said Ortiz interviewed well.

"She was the best candidate," Janda said. "We interviewed 10 people; she was the best of those.

"I think she'll fit in with the Town of Clinton," Janda added.

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©2020 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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