Shortly after Haley graduated college, it became evident that her beloved grandmother needed a full-time caregiver. It was an easy decision for Haley to put her plans to attend the Marine Corp’s Officer Candidates School on hold so that she could take care of her grandmother.

Knowing she wasn’t destined to sit behind a desk, “I don’t sit still very well for long,” she confessed, Haley took inventory of the remaining job options that would allow her as much time at home with her grandmother as possible. The 24/48 schedule of the fire department and its physicality appealed to her, and she started volunteering with Jasper County Fire-Rescue (JCFR) in May 2019 to test out the waters. “I loved it,” Haley recalled.

While Haley’s grandmother passed away before she was hired at JCFR, Haley’s determination to take care of her loved ones led her to her calling. Once she started in the fire service, Haley seized every opportunity to improve her skillset or learn something new. She became an EMT in November 2019 and finished Paramedic school less than a year later in October 2020, all while completing her remaining fire certifications. Then the opportunity for promotion presented itself. She didn’t get the Lieutenant promotion she’d applied for, but she knew her time was coming; she just had to be patient and, when the time came, prepared. Another round of promotions was coming up, and not one to be easily deterred, Haley submitted her application. This time, though, she was also in the process of applying to attend the Fire Officer Academy: The Company Officer.

“I knew it would be hard, I knew I would be upset with myself,” Haley reflects on her time at the FOA, “But I am responsible for my own development.” She was promoted to Lieutenant in early 2024.

Haley is one of four women who have graduated from the Fire Officer Academy. She doesn’t shy away from admitting her struggles throughout that week. The program intentionally pushes students to find their weaknesses, but her rotation through the conflict resolution scenario will always be legendary in the history of the Fire Officer Academy.

Haley is still in the early years of her career but already recognizes the importance of bonding over shared struggles.

“We face a lot of the same challenges and sometimes it can feel extremely isolating,” she admits. She longs for a network of women in the fire service who can provide comfort in their understanding of what each other is going through. True to her character, her reasons are selfless: “I want to know what I can do to help.”

– Courtesy of Jasper County FR