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Conn. teen’s joy in helping others guides her into firefighting, law enforcement

Calley Thierfelder joined the Northville Volunteer Fire Department and the New Milford Junior Police Cadets

By Kaitlin Lyle
The Register Citizen

NEW MILFORD, Conn. — For 16-year-old Calley Thierfelder, seeing the pride the Northville Volunteer Fire Department’s firefighters have in “knowing they made somebody’s life a little bit better” fuels her own enthusiasm for firefighting.

“I loved seeing everyone come back from calls, the pride that they had in knowing they made somebody’s life a little bit better,” she said. “It’s not something you get on a normal day... You’re not only helping yourselves, you’re helping the community because you’re somebody’s hero on their worst day.”

Calley, who grew up going on calls with her father Al Thierfelder, said she joined the fire department within a month of turning 14. As a junior member, the 16-year-old New Milford student works alongside her father, Fire Marshal Kevin Reynolds and the department on calls and is responsible for “outside work,” like comforting families on the scene and keeping track of the department’s firefighters.

Since she officially joined, Calley has responded to nearly half the calls the fire department receives, including the fire that erupted the New Milford High School roof in July 2022.

In addition to her involvement with the fire department, Calley is a charter member of the New Milford Junior Police Cadets where she is involved with the cadets’ community outreach and learning about first responding through the law enforcement aspect.

Calley works with the fire department three hours every Wednesday and Sunday and with the Police Cadets every second and fourth Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m. — all while keeping on top of her classes at New Milford High School. Starting the first week of February, she will divide her classroom time between New Milford High School and Naugatuck Valley Community College, where she will take criminal justice classes.

Once she turns 18, Calley can apply as a full member of the fire department and join the firefighters in fighting fires and working inside buildings — a task she said is “the true epitome of what a firefighter does.”

“I have the drive to want to go inside but I can’t because of my age,” Calley said. “To me, that’s the hardest part because I want to do more, but I can’t.”

As far as turning firefighting into a career, Calley said her next steps are to complete her emergency medical technician work, get her interior fire certification and go to the Connecticut Fire Academy in Windsor Locks as a recruit. She said she also plans to study “something to help my fire career” at college.

“If it’s paid or volunteer in the town I’m in, this is my home away from home,” Calley said on firefighting. “I can’t imagine having this knowledge and not doing anything with it... It becomes a part of you with all the training and dedication and hours you put in.”

‘I was definitely prepared’

Calley’s involvement with the Northville Volunteer Fire Department was a decision made long before she was born, said her mother Jennifer Thierfelder.

“Before we even had her, it was decision we made to raise her in an environment where she would want to give back to the community,” Thierfelder said.

Thierfelder said Calley started accompanying her father to the firehouse at 359 Litchfield Road and on calls when she was a toddler and would sit on the side while the firefighters did their trainings. She said Calley could name “what every tool is on every truck and what each of them do” and the firefighters became entwined with her life.

Calley, who is an only child, said the fire department has become her extended family and she’s in her element when she’s at the firehouse.

“I find a comfort in it,” she said about the firehouse. “I’ve grown up here — it’s always been a part of my life, it’s something I look forward to every week.”

Before joining the fire department as a junior member, Jennifer Thierfelder said Calley attended Girl’s Future Firefighter Camp, a free program designed to introduce girls ages 13 to 18 to a career in public safety. She said Calley also attended the recruit camp at the Connecticut Fire Academy and recently returned to Girl’s Future Firefighter Camp as a junior counselor.

Calley said her first call as an official Northville Volunteer Fire Company member was a brush fire at the former Camp Ella Fohs in New Milford .

“I felt like I was definitely prepared,” Calley said of her first call, “and all the people I grew up with, I had their voices in the back of my head. I was with my dad and it felt surreal.”

Calley said she would immediately take anyone interested in firefighting under her wing, adding she advises using every “no” as a motivator.

“Calley takes roadblocks and turns them into stepping stones,” Jennifer Thierfelder said. “Every ‘no’ she’s been given, she’s used as an opportunity to prove them wrong.”

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