[January 4, 2018
Linda Missonellie / Publisher/Editor]
The start of the new year was a historic one for the Hawthorne Fire Department. January 1 marked the first time a female firefighter has achieved a leadership position among the all-volunteer group.
“We’ve had female firefighters in Hawthorne since the 1990, “ said Fire Chief Joe Speranza: “but this is our first-ever female officer. Second Lieutenant Rebecca Morton has broken down that barrier.”
The 24-year-old firefighter said that whil “Making history is definitely cool, it’s no big deal. I’m going to be an officer just like any other officer in the department.”
Morton has been a firefighter for six years and originally joined Fire Company No. 2 because she wanted to challenge herself to do something, she believed to be outside her skill set.
The Morton family moved to Parker Avenue from Ridgefield Park when she was six and she had no family tradition in the Hawthorne Fire Department.
Then on day, a high school friend, Travis Lodder, a lieutenant in Company No. 2, asked her to join the department. “I decided to give it a try,” she said. A bank associate at Capital One in Ridgewood, Morton was’t an athlete in high school nor was this profession one that had interested her.
Completing the Firefighters One course at the Passaic County Fire Academy “was tough,” she admits. “I was the only femail firetighter in my class and I was definitely tired when I got home each day.”
Morton said she had difficulty carrying heavy hose packs and definitely had to get over any fear of height as she trained on the aerial ladders.
“I learned that I’m a lot stronger than I thought,” she said. And despite regularty working out at a gym, Morton added “I wasn’t in good shape for the skills needed in firefighter.”
In her experience with the ladder company, Morton said they often respond to mutual aid calls in Paterson and she has no qualms about climbing the 104 food tower on the truck.
And now as a second lieutenant, she’ll be leading a crew of volunteer firefighters into smoke-filled buildings.