BEREA, Ky. (LEX 18) — Shelby Bryant has made history as the first and only female firefighter in the Berea Fire Department.
“It means the world to me. I’m honored,” she said.
Bryant said she was inspired to pursue the career by her dad, who is the Sand Gap Volunteer Fire Department chief.
“When I was young, I told him I wanted to be a firefighter and he was like, ‘Let’s do it,’” Bryant recalled. “He’s helped mentor and train me. My parents always supported me all the way.”
Bryant said joining the Junior Firefighter program at the Sand Gap Fire Department when she was 12-years-old solidified her passion.
“I love the Junior program,” she said. “It gives you experience, training and helps you get your foot in the door so if you want to go on to be a career firefighter you have all the tools to do so.”
The program is an opportunity offered through local fire, rescue, and emergency medical services response organizations.
Bryant continued pursuing a role as a first responder in her community. She joined the Sand Gap Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter and also obtained her EMT certification. She worked for the Jackson County EMS while training for the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT).
Passing the CPAT is a requirement for becoming a firefighter with the Berea Fire Department.
Bryant said she failed the exam four times before finally coming out triumphant this year and accepting a job with the BFD.
“It was very emotional for me. I couldn't speak. I was crying, and I was just so happy that I finally get to do this with my life,” she said. “I’ve accomplished one of my dreams.”
Throughout her journey, Bryant said she’s been blessed with a support system that has encouraged her every step of the way, including her new coworkers at the BFD.
Now that her lifelong dream is finally a reality, Bryant said she hopes when people look at her, they know the sky’s the limit.
“Don’t quit. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to suck. It’s sweat, blood and tears, but just keep on pushing. Don’t give up,” she said.