Girl in firefighting gear guiding a fire hose into a door opening

Anna Whiting is training with the 2022-2023 Fire Academy class at Pontotoc Technology Center. When asked why she chose firefighter training, she says, “I started college in nursing and really liked the medical aspects of it, but it [college] seemed confining. I really am more of a hands-on learner.” Realizing this about herself, Whiting started investigating the Paramedic option as maybe a better match to what she wanted to accomplish. As she dug into her options, she found the Fire Academy at PTC. After talking with the instructor and others, she knew this was where she needed to be.

Describing what initially caught her interest in this training, she says, “I’ve always loved the first responder emergency aspects of medicine. I rock-climb and rappel, so the rescue side of this program also really fascinates me…and obviously fire is pretty awesome.”

Whiting and her family live on their working farm in Chile. With her dad and brother working away from home a lot, she’s no stranger to the hard work required to keep the farm running smoothly. 

Asked about her favorite part of the Fire Academy, she replies “It’s hard to say but I would say actually doing the things we’ll be doing in the field. Like, what we’re doing today I’m really enjoying because we’re practicing the actual steps of responding to a fire. We all get on the hose, we’ll radio our commands in, then we run into the burning building and spray it down and keep repeating it until we get it just right.”

There are a few elements of the training she finds more challenging than others. “The toughest part is definitely the heat. You get out here and it’s 104 degrees and you have your bunker gear on and you’re running the stairs, and…that’s definitely the hardest part,” she says with a bit of a laugh. “You feel like you can’t make it, but then you do…and you feel really accomplished!”

What’s next for Anna? She’s excited about exploring her options! “I can’t really give you a solid answer on what’s next. I’m still trying to figure that out because I really like what I’m learning and so I would love to work with it.”  She’s not without direction though, as she explains, “I have a ton of options and I love it! I’m thinking of joining the Bomberros (volunteer firefighters) back home in Chile, or actually working as a firefighter for a while to gain experience. I’m also considering working in wildland firefighting. A lot of them work seasonally and they work in the states in the Summer, but then they’re free to return home in the off season. I’m thinking of going into Paramedic training also. The Fire Academy leads to EMT, which is a prerequisite for becoming a Paramedic, but there are a few extra steps to get to the Paramedic level.”