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The Chillicothe Voice

Why I Joined Chillicothe Community Fire Protection District— Jen Gustafson

Mar 03, 2023 10:00AM ● By Jen Gustafson
My name is Jen Gustafson, and I am a mother to four exceptional children and a grandmother to three beautiful grandchildren. For most of my adult career, I was a legal advocacy coordinator for three counties, explicitly working with victims of domestic violence and victims of sexual assault. Having worked in that industry for so long, I was ready for a change. With my three older kids settled into their lives with careers or graduating college, I decided I wanted a change for my youngest daughter, Zella, and myself.

In 2019 we moved to Chillicothe; I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to continue to help people in need. Knowing I still wanted to impact people’s lives positively, I thought firefighting would be an accessible route. Within a month of moving to town, I filled out an application. After my initial testing and interviews with different department members, I started my journey as a recruit on my way to becoming a Chillicothe Firefighter. Little did I know becoming a firefighter is more than filling out an application and showing up every month or so for a course or two. The first year was grueling, but a fantastic experience that I will cherish forever.

Over four years, the training still has not stopped, and thankfully, I am fortunate to work with a great team and top-notch leadership that I consider family to not only myself but to my daughter Zella, too.

I have learned to be a firefighter; you must be prepared, train hard, be a little crazy, and always be ready to deal with high-stress situations. If you think about it, imagine waking up each day getting ready for work, not knowing what that day may bring. Having to face someone’s worst day or worst fears and being thrust in a position to decide life-changing outcomes as someone’s life literally depends on you is tough some days to grasp, but I am thankful to be able to be there for our community.

The amount of training I now have under my belt and the number of certifications I have achieved has made me the firefighter I am today and the role model I’ve always wanted to be for my kids. I am also proud to show my youngest daughter that she can do anything she puts her mind to, no matter the obstacles.

I have learned firefighting is one of the world’s most rewarding and noble professions. From the outside looking in, you can never understand why we do it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it. The brotherhood and sisterhood of this department are strong. Whether you’re a one-year rookie or a 50-year veteran, when the tones drop, we know we will lay our lives down for one another and our community if needed. I am proud to say I am a firefighter for CCFPD.