PERU, Ind. (WISH) — A Peru firefighter is transforming the 172-year-old fire department.
“I just look at Firefighter Swinford as just another firefighter here,” said Peru Fire Chief Chris Betzner.
But Stacey Swinford is unique: she’s the first female firefighter in the department’s history.
“It gives me an opportunity to set the bar high,” said Swinford.
Fighting fires wasn’t a girlhood dream for the 27-year-old Swinford. She went to college and tried out a few other things first.
“Its a job like nothing else I’ve ever done before and I’m happy to be a firefighter, and I feel like I found my career,” said Swinford.
She grew up in Peru, and when she decided to knock on Chief Betzner’s door, she knew she’d be the first woman in the department.
“I think its pretty cool,” said Swinford.
But she still had to prove herself, just like her male counterparts did.
“She did what every other fire fighter in the state of Indiana is required to do,” said Betzner.
Only on the job for six months, Swinford says she feels like she fits right in.
“I wouldn’t say they treat me like I’m a girl, I’m Firefighter Swinford,” she said.
But being the only woman has its perks. She gets her own bedroom and bathroom, which is good when you work with thirty men.
“We try to treat her like she’s just another firefighter, because that’s what she is to all of us,” said firefighter Nathan Hunt.
When not on calls, they hang out. On this day, she just so happened to be the cook.
And after growing up the oldest of 11, she knows her new brothers have her back.
“You have the camaraderie. You see these guys once every three days and you never know what you’re going to come up against,” said Swinford.
Just four percent of firefighters in the country are women.
The last woman to pass all the strength and written tests in Peru was 20 year ago, but she ultimately turned the job down.