<strong>Matthew Nash</strong>/Olympic Peninsula News Group                                 According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2016 women make up about 7 percent of firefighters across the U.S. In Sequim Stefanie Anderson, left, is Clallam County Fire District’s 
No. 3’s only female career firefighter and Anaka Hughes is one of fewer than 10 female volunteer firefighters. In January, they were named Career and Volunteer Firefighters of 2017.

Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2016 women make up about 7 percent of firefighters across the U.S. In Sequim Stefanie Anderson, left, is Clallam County Fire District’s No. 3’s only female career firefighter and Anaka Hughes is one of fewer than 10 female volunteer firefighters. In January, they were named Career and Volunteer Firefighters of 2017.

Anderson, Hughes named Firefighters of the Year

SEQUIM — Sequim natives. Wives. Mothers. And now Firefighters of the Year.

Fellow career and volunteer firefighters with Clallam County District No. 3 selected Stefanie Anderson, a career firefighter/paramedic, and Anaka Hughes, a volunteer firefighter/EMT, as 2017’s Firefighters of the Year.

Anderson was named Career Firefighter of the Year and Hughes Volunteer Firefighter of the Year on Jan. 19 at the fire district’s awards banquet at the Cedars at Dungeness.

“The thought never crossed my mind that I was ever going to get it,” Anderson said.

“I have a great job and I love doing what I do. I think there’s a lot of us here who do an amazing job. It’s an honor.”

Anderson is the only female career firefighter out of 34 firefighters in the district while Hughes is one of about seven female volunteer firefighters of 56 total.

“There are a lot of amazing people on our volunteer side that I thought were going to get it,” Hughes said. “I was definitely surprised.”

Both 33, Anderson and Hughes took different paths to becoming firefighters.

More about Anderson

Anderson, née Gates, started her path to becoming a firefighter at age 15 with the fire district’s Explorer Scout Post 1003 program. She said she joined on a whim but loved it and went through its duration for three years.

As a senior at Sequim High School, she spent sixth period at Station 34 on Fifth Avenue essentially job shadowing firefighters.

“That’s when I really learned what I wanted to do for a living,” Anderson said.

She graduated from Sequim High School in 2002 and was a volunteer firefighter for four years before being hired in 2006. At the January banquet, she was commended for 15 years of service.

Anderson is married to fellow firefighter/EMT Travis Anderson and the couple has a 2-year-old son Mason.

“I love my job and I’m very fortunate,” Anderson said.

“Sequim is a very small community and having grown up here it’s inevitable that on the calls you’re going to know the patient or know someone related to them. Most of the time that’s a positive thing because you’re a familiar face and can ease the patient or family in a time of need.”

More about Hughes

Hughes, formerly Anaka Helseth, began volunteering close to four years ago in Sequim.

She grew up in the area before moving to Bothell her senior year of high school. Hughes became a contract diesel mechanic for five years overseas — three years in Iraq and two in Afghanistan — helping American military divisions.

Once her contract ended, she traveled to Asia for a few months and came back to Sequim and started working for Olympic Ambulance as a mechanic for a year.

Hughes started with the fire district’s recruit academy in January 2014 and continues to do drills every Monday. She currently serves as an adviser for the Explorers program.

The push to volunteer followed a long conversation with friend Forrest Hietpas, now a career firefighter on Bainbridge Island, she said.

“I was looking for that sense of community,” she said. “I’ve always had a compulsion to do more with helping and being involved.”

When not volunteering, Hughes is a stay-at-home mom with her identical 2-year-old boys Evan and Lou.

Hughes said she’s appreciative of her husband, Nathan, owner of Hughes Home Concepts, for his support of her firefighting.

It’s now a goal of hers to become a career firefighter, in or near Sequim, she said.

Leading the way

Despite the accolades, Anderson and Hughes are rarities in firefighting today with few women entering the field. According to the National Fire Protection Association in 2016, women make up about 7 percent of firefighters across the U.S.

“In reality, there are standards that need to be met — academically and physically. It doesn’t matter if you’re female or male,” Anderson said. “If you don’t meet them, then you don’t get to play.”

She recalled a man at the fire academy who was unable to throw an extension ladder and he was let go. In Sequim, Anderson said if the right female candidate came along and met the qualifications they’d be hired like her, but there haven’t been many qualified female candidates.

“You must possess a lot of upper body strength so you have to work extra hard at that, which I do too, to make sure you can do everything (as a firefighter),” she said.

Assistant Chief Tony Hudson said Anderson is No. 1 in line to become a lieutenant for the fire district once an opening becomes available.

Anderson said for women interested in firefighting and/or becoming a paramedic, the Explorers program is great for girls under 18 while the volunteer program is best for women 18 and up.

“Come and ask questions,” she said. “Know what’s expected but don’t ever shy away from it.”

Hughes said while they often receive calls on someone’s worst day, one of her favorite parts of volunteering is participating in community events such as the Sequim Irrigation Festival, setting up the smoke house or riding on an engine.

“It’s so cool when little girls come up to me and say, ‘it’s a girl firefighter,’” she said.

Anderson and Hughes both worked for Olympic Ambulance in Sequim and they’ve seen more women entering the emergency response field through the company.

Kim Droppert, executive director of Olympic Ambulance, confirms this.

She said it varies from their locations in Clallam, Kitsap, Mason and Thurston counties but in the past few years more women have joined their team.

In Sequim, the workforce was 22 percent female in 2016 while last year it was 27 percent, and 28 percent in 2018 so far.

“We’re proud of the women we have and we’re happy to see the numbers increasing,” Droppert said.

Many of their staffers, she said, come in as emergency medical technicians and after they gain experience and patient contacts they continue their education for paramedic certification.

From there, a large number go on to be firefighters/paramedics, she said.

A new trend is that some EMTs with Olympic Ambulance also are becoming physicians assistants too, Droppert said.

For more information about Olympic Ambulance, visit olympicambulance.com.

For more information about Clallam County Fire District 3, visit ccfd3.org/ or call 360-683-4242.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

More in News

Bret Allen Kenney was in court on Friday.
$5 million bail set in officer assault

Man also a person of interest in homicide of his mother

Candidate filing week ends with list of hopefuls

Three contests to be on primary ballot

Housing, fish passage topics at county meetings

Government entities gather on North Olympic Peninsula

Clallam Farm Family of the Year nominations sought

The Clallam County Fair invites the public to submit… Continue reading

Brian King, left, and Marc Titterness.
Candidates for sheriff debate during forum

Wraparound services, staffing among issues discussed

Dick Richardson, volunteer coordinator of the U.S. Light House Society, shows off the 1880’s French made fresnel lens at the top of the Point Wilson Light at Fort Worden State Park. The society is the caretaker of the lighthouse, under a license from the U.S. Coast Guard. Public tours are conducted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Because of liability issues and Coast Guard regulations, the top floor, where the lens is located, will be off limits. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Lighthouse tours

Dick Richardson, volunteer coordinator of the U.S. Light House Society, shows off… Continue reading

Port sunsets discount program

Storage had been half price if prepaid

The Worthington Mansion restoration includes 9,000 cedar shingles that were hand dipped bay volunteers two years ago. They are installed on the mansard roof. The top floor of the mansion which is the interior of the roof area is envisioned to become a library area and meeting space. (Peninsula Daily News file)
Worthington Mansion volunteers to cut the ribbon

Overnight stays expected to begin in June

Construction tentatively finishes this week at the new Woodcock Road roundabout. (Bob Lampert)
Woodcock Road roundabout to tentatively finish May 20

Work on the Woodcock Road/Sequim-Dungeness Way roundabout is expected to… Continue reading

Most Read