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Conn. FD’s first female firefighter hopes to be an example to other women

Allingtown Firefighter Samantha Trayer brings her experience as a therapist to a more hands-on job


Wendy Trayer pins a firefighter badge on her daughter, new City of West Haven Fire Department Allingtown career firefighter/EMT Samantha Trayer.

City Photo/Michael P. Walsh

By Brian Zahn
New Haven Register

WEST HAVEN, Conn. — The Allingtown Fire District swore into service its first woman Tuesday, the last of the city’s three fire districts to hire a female firefighter.

“It’s not as scary as it looks,” said Samantha Trayer, the district’s first female firefighter and EMT. During the ceremony, her mother, Muzz Trayer, pinned her with badge number 50, coincidentally the same as her recruit number in the academy.

Allingtown Fire Chief Michael Terenzio, who was hired in 2020 to lead the department, said it was included in his five-year plan to introduce more diversity to the force. After Trayer applied to the consortium, Terenzio said, the department decided to hire her. It was a decision that Terenzio said paid off.

“She finished at or near the top of her academy,” he said.

Before applying to the fire service, Trayer, 32, worked for years as a marriage and family therapist with an emphasis on eating disorders and family trauma. She said mental health is her passion, and she is eager to start a new role that she views as “more hands-on” and offers an occupational use of her athletic background.

Trayer said that although the fire service is “a male-dominated field,” she hopes her story serves as an example to other women.

“They can do it,” she said.

Trayer was one of two firefighters sworn in Tuesday. Firefighter John Kennedy, 37, a former volunteer firefighter for the department before joining the Marines and moving to Arizona, was also sworn in as a firefighter and medic. A third firefighter and EMT, Christopher Jordan, was to be sworn in but missed the ceremony due to illness.

Kennedy said joining the fire service was his plan for a long time, having come from a family of firefighters in San Francisco and spending hours at the station. He said his plans to become a firefighter were put on pause when he left the Marines in 2011 due to the state of the labor market. But after becoming a new father, he recently decided with his wife to move closer to family in West Haven.

Terenzio opened Tuesday’s event by emphasizing the amount of heart required to work in the fire service. Currently, he said, the district’s staffing is below the minimum guidelines of what is recommended by the National Fire Protection Association for a district of Allingtown’s size, with only enough personnel to have five firefighters on duty at a time where six are expected at a minimum. Although the city’s three fire departments operate independently administratively, they cooperate on calls based on staffing, proximity and resources.

Terenzio said he has requested that a share of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds be spent on making updates and improvements to the district’s firehouses, including the dormitories to better accommodate women firefighters like Trayer.

Recently, the Municipal Accountability Review Board, a state oversight board that maintains approval power over West Haven’s contracts above $50,000, delayed a vote on whether to allow spending for similar improvements to the flooding dormitories of the West Shore Fire District’s firehouse. Members said they wanted more collaboration between the fire districts to consolidate and streamline operations. Unlike the city’s other two fire districts, Allingtown Fire District is not fully independent from city government, which sets the department’s supplemental tax rate each year.

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