UNITY — McKenzie Meechance is a 17-year-old, Grade 12 student, inspired by first responders and wanting to make a career out of the work. At present she is serving as a student firefighter with the Unity Fire Department.
“I decided to join Unity Fire Department in March of 2021, when I was 15. At the time I was living with my stepdad, and he was on the department. Me, being myself, I thought it would be funny to make a snarky comment about how I should join just to upstage these men, which I know now have way more experience and are very much stronger than I am. My stepdad took that comment and told me I should do it. He said it would look really great on my resumé too. I thought about it, but I wasn’t actually going to join.”
McKenzie said she denied his first invite to practice as she was terrified she wasn’t good enough and might make a fool of herself. Her stepdad convinced her to experience one practice saying that if she didn’t like it, she wouldn’t have to do it again. McKenzie attended that practice and after that first encounter with volunteer firefighting, decided she loved it.
Some of McKenzie’s biggest influences were her parents, and of course her stepdad who was on the department. Her dad worked with the Biggar Fire Department and her mother is currently trained as am Emergency Medical Responder and awaiting the opportunity to take her licensing exam.
“Being the only woman on the department I thought I wouldn’t fit in as much, but I was wrong. The guys are very welcoming and made me feel like I’m a part of their team. I appreciate all the things they do,” adds McKenzie.
McKenzie plans to attend Lakeland College to take their firefighting course. At present, McKenzie says she does not find it hard to balance student firefighting and school, however if a fire call comes while she is in class, she doesn’t attend.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to work well with others while under pressure in stressful situations, which is a great skill to have. Good communication is definitely a must.”
McKenzie says, “For me, the best thing about being on the fire department is being an inspiration to young girls. When I was giving a tour of the hall to a kindergarten class, I asked who wanted to be a firefighter when they grew up. Almost all of the girls raised their hands. One of them said ‘I want to be just like you.’ I almost cried it was so touching. Knowing I can influence and inspire these young girls just warms my heart. It truly is a wonderful feeling and I’m grateful I can inspire them.”