It’s a (wo)man’s world
CORNING — Lisa Brown of Corning knows how to survive in a man’s world. Brown, 53, is a volunteer firefighter for Corning Volunteer Fire Department and a paramedic.
“My forte was in the medical field to start with, and when I joined the fire department, that’s always been my love, so I kind of go that direction,” said Brown.
Brown has been involved with the department since 2004, and is also a safety officer.
“Nothing beats that feeling of being able to help somebody, whether it be medical or whether it be their house is on fire, and you can do everything you can. I guess it’s just instilled in me,” Brown said.
One of the guys
“From day one, they never made it ‘You’re a female, you can’t do this.’ This department has been just phenomenal about bringing females on board,” Brown said.
There are four female firefighters on Corning Volunteer Fire Department.
“I don’t know if it’s like that for every department, but for this one, I mean, kudos to the entire department because they’ve been wonderful. And, we all get along. I mean, we have a really good team,” said Brown.
Brown said being alongside the other firefighters as a team made her feel part of the group.
“Not one time did I ever feel like an outcast or shunned aside,” Brown said. “They just took every one of us in unconditionally.”
Besides working alongside the other firefighters, and doing things that women are traditionally more prone to doing, such as organizing get-togethers and Christmas parties, there is a camaraderie between everyone.
“There is a lot of teasing back and forth, but it’s not really gender-wise. It’s just general teasing,” Brown said. “Actually, we probably tease more than the guys do. We can hold our own.”
Brown has been to many fires and medical calls while on the fire department.
“Probably the most excited I’ve seen her was when her boss’s place of business caught on fire,” said Corning Volunteer Fire Chief Don Willits.
In November 2011, Brown’s employer for 10 years, R & S Auto Sales, had a fire in the shop. Brown called 911 for her employer.
“I was trying to play both ends of that one because I couldn’t come up and be on the trucks because he (Willits) was out of state,” Brown said. “So, I kind of had to take care of the business part of it.”
Brown said her training helped significantly because she knew how to respond.
“The first thing I did was get everybody out,” said Brown. “So, I’m trying to work with them (the fire department) and it was helpful in that I knew where we had chemicals. I knew what was going to be a threat, but I didn’t have my gear on so I was playing both hats.”
Brown also responded to a call of a shed fire May 28. The shed, owned by Doug and Debbie Bowman, contained a boat, forklift, fifth-wheel trailer and pickup trucks. Damage estimate was between $500,000 and $750,000.
Firefighters from Corning, Prescott and Massena departments were on scene for approximately six hours.
“There’s very few of us who work in town and are able to go and that happened to be one of them,” Brown said. “When we pulled up on scene, someone basically takes the command, which is usually Donnie (the fire chief). Donnie was gone, so our next in line was also one of our captains, who is going to be fighting the fires. So, he threw me in that position.”
While on scene, Brown had to coordinate mutual aid departments coming in, as well as checking the safety of the Corning firefighters. She made sure they had proper equipment and backup, and checked that they were getting the proper rehabilitation after coming out of the fire.
“You try not to have too many chiefs, as they say. You have to have coordination, and you got to have the right kind of people in the right places so everybody’s not doing their own thing,” Brown said. “That’s where the command system comes in, and we’ve all been trained on that. ... It makes it safer for everybody.”
Brown is originally from Corning, but moved to Arizona when she was younger. She graduated from high school in Arizona, and moved back to the area as an adult.
“I’m also a paramedic, and so I was kind of in that field for awhile,” said Brown. “I’ve been involved with this department forever, even when I wasn’t on here, helping out, doing stuff. Just kind of got officially back on again a couple years ago.”
Brown earned a degree from Mercy School of Medicine in Des Moines in 1987. She was certified in Firefighter I in 2000, and was on the Prescott Volunteer Fire Department until she and husband Mike Brown moved to Corning in 2004.
She is also a medical legal death investigator for Adams and Taylor counties and is on the state and federal mortuary teams, which are called to aid during disasters in the state or worldwide.
“It (firefighting) involves your family, whether they’re on the department or not because when you get called out at night, you get called out from a birthday party or a family dinner, it does affect your family,” Brown said. “So, you have to have the support.”
Brown has two sons, Justin and Josh Cooper, and three grandchildren.