Single mother temporarily leaves child to attend fire academy

MAEGAN MITCHELL
Senior Writer

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series.

Some would consider leaving the ones you love behind as you embark alone on a journey as one of the toughest things a person can endure. However, Bridget Blackmore, Creston, Canada freshman, did just that.

For the first time, the KC Fire Academy has three female students this semester, Blackmore, 19, being one of them.

As Blackmore ventured from home, she left behind not only a supportive family, but also her 1 1/2 year old daughter, Gabriella.

As a single mom, leaving home to become a firefighter was not an easy task for Blackmore, but she truly believes it was the right move.

Blackmore’s drive to become a firefighter sparked after she spontaneously decided to serve her community at the Canyon-Lister Volunteer Fire Department.

“Out of the blue, I decided to join my local department,” Blackmore said. “I just showed up on their doorstep during one of their Monday night practices and told them I wanted to join.”

After two weeks, the department had Blackmore participate in a live practice fire.

“I absolutely loved it. I just knew that was what I had to do,” Blackmore said. “I became so passionate about it.”

Blackmore said she had no life goals or plans until she fell in love with firefighting.

“I am a single mom… I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” Blackmore said. “I was drifting along. All the guys were so supportive of me and helped me along the way.”

While volunteering in her hometown, Blackmore’s chief, Glenn Guthrie, encouraged her to attend KC’s academy along with her two friends, Cory Fleck and Cory Goncalves.

Despite having to leave her daughter with her mom for three straight months, Blackmore decided KC was where she wanted to attend school.

Blackmore, Fleck and Goncalves flew more than 2,000 miles, a 12-hour flight to attend KC.

“[KC] is about $14,000 cheaper and instead of having to complete a six-month academy back home, [KC] is only three months long,” Blackmore said.

After making one of the toughest decisions of her life, Blackmore said her mom, expressed some concern but mainly support.

“I’ve gotten both sides of the coin. My mom is just a worrier, like all moms are,” Blackmore said. “She just made me promise to come back home.”

If it is possible for a person’s heart to be in two places at once, Blackmore’s definitely is. Leaving her daughter behind has been very difficult for her.

“It is honestly the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. I went from seeing my baby every day for a year-and-a-half to not seeing her for three months,” Blackmore said. “I did it because I know it is what I have to do to make a better life for her and myself.”

Though Blackmore said she has thoroughly enjoyed her time here, along with all the new friends she has made, she plans to return home as soon as the academy is over.

“As of right now this is only temporary. I might come back to Texas if I can get a job, but I will be going home as soon as I finish so I can see my baby,” Blackmore said.

Her family has supported her fully, but Blackmore said she does not think they love the idea of her returning.

“I think they are really more worried about my daughter leaving them permanently than they are me leaving,” Blackmore said jokingly.

When most people say they have a large support team, they simple mean an average-sized family cheering them on, but with Blackmore it is more than that.

“I am one of 10 – five sisters, Vilate, Cindy, Lorae, Halie and Danika and four brothers – Woodruff, Curtis, Anthony and Dustin,” Blackmore said. “I miss being home with everyone.”

While Blackmore makes KC her home-away-from-home, she is also creating a third home at the Flint-Gresham Fire Department. Blackmore, Fleck and Goncalves are living at the department for the duration of their stay in the United States.

“Even though the commute is 45 minutes every day, it is freaking awesome [at Flint-Gresham FD]. Everybody has been so supportive there and we have had a lot of fun,” Blackmore said. “There is one other girl, but I am the only girl living there.”

Blackmore said because there are only three women in the academy, they have become pretty close.

“We are becoming really good friends, and we support each other,” Blackmore said. “It’s nice because we can understand how it feels to be a part of a largely male-dominated field.”

Though some may consider firefighting a man’s career, there are regulations that require everyone to be treated equal.

“Regardless of age, race or gender, the Texas Commission on Fire Protection requires all [students] to be able to perform all firefighter skills equally,” Chief Mike Fennell said. “When they do a skill, they’ve got to do it, and it doesn’t matter how tall they are, how wide they are or whatever. They just have to be able to do it according to the standards.”

Blackmore said she appreciates the requirements on all drills and tasks they must complete because she would not want to be treated as anything other than equal.

“I have been able to pull my own weight,” Blackmore said. “I am proud of myself because I have done more than I ever thought I was capable of.”

At first, Blackmore struggled to keep up with the male students but soon raised her levels of agility and strength.

“I feel like I have improved on a lot of things,” Blackmore said. “Especially push-ups. I practice as much as I can.”

Blackmore prepared for KC by practicing with her co-workers at her hometown volunteer department. They all came together and worked to better themselves by going to the gym and running drills.

At the beginning of each academy, students are placed into engine groups to teach students to learn to trust their coworkers and to develop bonds.

“I am the squad leader of Engine Group 2. It is my job to encourage and make sure everyone gets through the drills… to do the best that they can do,” Blackmore said.

During her time at KC, Blackmore said she has been taken back by the overwhelming kindness of the people.

“It is unreal… how welcoming everyone has been. It is, in a way, a culture shock,” Blackmore said. “I feel like I have made life long friends here.”

After graduating, Blackmore plans to start applying to local stations right away, and if she is hired, plans to go home and get her daughter so they can return to Texas.

“In five years, I see myself working as a full-time firefighter [with the] ultimate goal of working in San Diego, California,” Blackmore said.

Blackmore said she enjoys the city life and believes being in a larger area she will receive more calls and activity.

“I feel like there is so much more opportunity for my baby in a big city. There will be more choices for her education and activities as opposed to a small town,” Blackmore said. “My major focus in all this is my baby… my wants really come second to her… She comes first.”
Blackmore arrived at KC to pursue her spontaneous interest in becoming a firefight and plans to leave KC with the means of obtaining a career.

“I feel a lot stronger in not only my character, but also physically,” Blackmore said. “I really didn’t have a lot going for me when I came down here, but I want to leave KC as a firefighter and make something of myself.”

Chief Fennell feels Blackmore has what it takes to become a successful firefighter.

“She is very driven. She is hardworking and motivated,” Fennell said. “When I have students like her, it makes my job so much easier.”

Blackmore said she had no life goals or plans until she fell in love with firefighting.

“I am a single mom… I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” Blackmore said. “I was drifting along. All the guys were so supportive of me and helped me along the way.”

While volunteering in her hometown, Blackmore’s chief, Glenn Guthrie, encouraged her to attend KC’s academy along with her two friends, Cory Fleck and Cory Goncalves.

Despite having to leave her daughter with her mom for three straight months, Blackmore decided KC was where she wanted to attend school.

Blackmore, Fleck and Goncalves endured a 12-hour flight to attend KC.

“[KC] is about $14,000 cheaper and instead of having to complete a six-month academy back home, [KC] is only three months long,” Blackmore said.

After making one of the toughest decisions of her life, Blackmore said her mom, expressed some concern but mainly support.

“I’ve gotten both sides of the coin. My mom is just a worrier, like all moms are,” Blackmore said. “She just made me promise to come back home.”

If it is possible for a person’s heart to be in two places at once, Blackmore’s definitely is.

“It is honestly the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. I went from seeing my baby every day for a year-and-a-half to not seeing her for three months,” Blackmore said. “I did it because I know it is what I have to do to make a better life for her and myself.”

Though Blackmore said she has thoroughly enjoyed her time here, along with all the new friends she has made, she plans to return home as soon as the academy is over.

“As of right now this is only temporary. I might come back to Texas if I can get a job, but I will be going home as soon as I finish so I can see my baby,” Blackmore said.

When most people say they have a large support team, they simply mean an average-sized family cheering them on, but with Blackmore it is more than that.

“I am one of 10 – five sisters, Vilate, Cindy, Lorae, Halie and Danika and four brothers – Woodruff, Curtis, Anthony and Dustin,” Blackmore said. “I miss being home with everyone.”

While Blackmore makes KC her home-away-from-home, she is also creating a third home at the Flint-Gresham Fire Department. Blackmore, Fleck and Goncalves are living at the department for the duration of their stay in the United States.

“Even though the commute is 45 minutes every day, it is freaking awesome [at Flint-Gresham FD]. Everybody has been so supportive there and we have had a lot of fun,” Blackmore said. “There is one other girl, but I am the only girl living there.”

Blackmore said because there are only three women in the academy, they have become pretty close.

“It’s nice because we can understand how it feels to be a part of a largely male-dominated field,” Blackmore said.

Though some may consider firefighting a man’s career, there are regulations that require everyone to be treated equal.

“Regardless of age, race or gender, the Texas Commission on Fire Protection requires all [students] to be able to perform all firefighter skills equally,” Chief Mike Fennell said. “When they do a skill, they’ve got to do it, and it doesn’t matter how tall they are, how wide they are or whatever. They just have to be able to do it according to the standards.”

Blackmore said she appreciates the requirements on all drills and tasks they must complete because she would not want to be treated as anything other than equal.

“I have been able to pull my own weight,” Blackmore said. “I am proud of myself because I have done more than I ever thought I was capable of.”

At first, Blackmore struggled to keep up with the male students but soon raised her levels of agility and strength.

“I feel like I have improved on a lot of things,” Blackmore said. “Especially push-ups. I practice as much as I can.”

Blackmore prepared for KC by practicing with her co-workers at her hometown volunteer department. They all came together and worked to better themselves by going to the gym and running drills.

At the beginning of each academy, students are placed into engine groups to teach students to learn to trust their coworkers and to develop bonds.

“I am the squad leader of Engine Group 2. It is my job to encourage and make sure everyone gets through the drills… to do the best that they can do,” Blackmore said.

During her time at KC, Blackmore said she has been taken aback by the overwhelming kindness of the people.

“It is unreal… how welcoming everyone has been. It is, in a way, a culture shock,” Blackmore said. “I feel like I have made life long friends here.”

After graduating, Blackmore plans to start applying to local stations right away, and if she is hired, plans to go home and get her daughter so they can return to Texas.

“In five years, I see myself working as a full-time firefighter [with the] ultimate goal of working in San Diego, California,” Blackmore said.

Blackmore said she enjoys the city life and believes being in a larger area she will receive more calls and activity.

“I feel like there is so much more opportunity for my baby in a big city. There will be more choices for her education and activities as opposed to a small town,” Blackmore said. “My major focus in all this is my baby… my wants really come second to her… She comes first.”
Blackmore arrived at KC to pursue her spontaneous interest in becoming a firefighter and plans to leave KC with the means of obtaining a career.

“I feel a lot stronger in not only my character, but also physically,” Blackmore said. “I really didn’t have a lot going for me when I came down here, but I want to leave KC as a firefighter and make something of myself.”

Fennell believes Blackmore has what it takes to become a successful firefighter.

“She is very driven. She is hardworking and motivated,” Fennell said. “When I have students like her, it makes my job so much easier.”