A commitment to serve
Kamisha Siminoe balances family with service to community
January 28, 2013
“We truly are adrenaline junkies, but I think there is always that drive to be able to help. There’s all sorts of people that are courageous enough to do the right thing in that moment in time, and those people are the true heroes, but I never liked seeing something and not knowing how I could help.”
— Kamisha Siminoe about why she joined Craig Fire/Rescue
The state of equality has evolved considerably since the dark ages of human history, and much more so in the United States since the women's suffrage and civil rights movements of the 20th century.
Though modern women can be found working, and excelling, beside their male counterparts across multiple industries the ranks of certain professions continue to be dominated by men.
And there are few jobs where that trend holds more truth than in the business of firefighting.
But Craig resident Kamisha Siminoe is one of few women who has earned her place among her firefighting brethren and is currently the fourth longest tenured firefighter with Craig Fire/Rescue, a pay-per-call fire department.
But Siminoe is more than just a firefighter and the respect she commands inside the firehouse stems as much from her accomplishments outside of Craig Fire/Rescue as it does from her dedication to the fire department.
"I'm really proud of Kamisha, but not just because she's a woman firefighter," Craig Fire/Rescue Chief Bill Johnston said. "When Kamisha joined the department she was single and has since gotten married, is raising a family and has built a successful career in education, all while also being one of the most dependable people with the department."
Siminoe, 44, moved to Craig in 1991 after graduating with a teaching degree from Colorado College.
Since that time she has been a social studies teacher and a dean of students at Craig Middle School and Moffat County High School, and currently serves as the principal of Sandrock Elementary.
Prior to joining Craig Fire/Rescue in 1999 Siminoe was an EMT with the hospital for two years and became familiar with the fire department while responding to calls.
It was a Steamboat Springs friend who talked Siminoe into becoming a firefighter.
"A friend of mine came to Craig for a self-contained breathing apparatus exam and asked if I wanted to join her, and I figured why not it would give me a chance to say hi to some of the guys," Siminoe said. "I ended up staying for the classroom portion of the exam and came back to watch them do a maze in the afternoon.
"It was awesome, it was fun and I ended up talking to Chief (Bill Johnston), who was the deputy chief at the time, and he asked me why I wasn't a firefighter."
The more she thought about it the more it made sense. Helping people was why she became an EMT in the first place.
But during her interview Siminoe unknowingly broke a cardinal rule of Craig Fire/Rescue. When asked why she wanted to join the department she responded with the all-too-ordinary answer of serving her fellow man.
"I already know everyone who comes through that door is interested in helping people, that's a given," Johnston said. "But this is a difficult and demanding job, and I'm much more interested in people who are honest about being adrenaline junkies."
Siminoe remembers being forgiven for her cliché response, but said last week she'd probably say the exact same thing if given the chance to interview again.
After 13 years with the department she's run the whole gamut of emotions and thinks there's a lot of truth to the pad answer so many potential firefighters are guilty of giving.
"We truly are adrenaline junkies, but I think there is always that drive to be able to help," Siminoe said. "There's all sorts of people that are courageous enough to do the right thing in that moment in time, and those people are the true heroes, but I never liked seeing something and not knowing how I could help."
Though people think "pay per call" means the Craig fire department is volunteer or part-time, Siminoe said her family, especially her children, understand helping people doesn't run on a set schedule.
And even though she has had to leave holiday celebrations and birthdays to respond to calls, Siminoe said the camaraderie that's been established at Craig Fire/Rescue makes it worth the trouble.
That bond begins with training.
"I think one of the things that makes us (firefighters) so tight — and it doesn't matter if you're a wildland firefighter or a structure firefighter, if it's your full-time job or your part-time job — going through things on a scene brings people together," Siminoe said. "But the training piece is such a huge component for us because it makes sure your skills are where they need to be. Our leaders here set a very high bar for training and certifications that we carry."
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