Dexter's first female firefighter settles in

By Tyler Profilet - bio | email

DEXTER, MO (KFVS) - When the call comes in to the Dexter Fire Department, Jill McGowan is just one of the guys.

"It's not like, oh, she's a little woman, she can't do that, you're just expected to do the same thing everyone else is," she said.

She says she never imagined she would become a firefighter, let alone the first female firefighter in Dexter history.

"I have a very good friend who is a firefighter and he talked about it and told stories, and that led me to think it sounded like fun and excitement and a thrill," McGowan said.

Dexter Fire Chief Al Banken says he was shocked when McGowan approached him four years ago about joining the department.

"I really didn't know how to handle it, having a woman on the fire department," he said.  "It has kind of cleaned up the atmosphere on the fire department.  There's no bad or foul language anymore and that's a good thing."

Chief Banken says McGowan has been a model member of the team, although that's not what he expected.

"I did not have very high expectations because of Jill's size," Banken said.  "But that is not a factor.  I'm telling you, Jill doesn't back away from anybody."

McGowan says her size doesn't come into play, even though she has to sometimes lift half her body weight.

"It gets pretty heavy, but I think it gets pretty heavy even if you are a big person," she said.  "You're carrying around something you're not used to carrying most of the day."

McGowan encourages more women to join the department in the future.

"We have a lot of fun," she said.  "It's really thrilling, but they need to expect to work really hard."

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