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Cardinal fire adds to full-time staff

First woman joins ranks

CANFIELD — The Cardinal Joint Fire District swore in Jillian A. Smith of Ellsworth, its first full-time woman firefighter, bringing the department’s full-time staffing up to 15.

“We are adding one (full-timer) so all shifts will have five paramedics on duty,” said fire Chief Don Hutchison, who noted the district stills needs to add to the roster to ensure four people are full time at all three stations.

The ceremony was held Monday at Station 2 on Herbert Road. Hutchison said he feels a good choice was made.

“She was interviewed against three others applying for the position,” he said. “I know she is a very high-quality paramedic and firefighter, able to do the job.”

Smith is a 1997 graduate of T.S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. She went on to attend Elon University in North Carolina where she majored in business administration. Prior to moving to the Youngstown area, she worked for a Washington, D.C.-based company that managed a variety of government contracts and programs. Smith was on a team that helped coordinate national training exercises.

“A key component of the National Exercise Program, these congressionally mandated exercises were designed to help the nation prepare for and respond to catastrophic events,” Smith said. “I loved the work; I was good at it and felt that I had found my calling.”

She continued to work remotely on similar contracts after moving to Ohio, where her husband was working, in 2007. Not long after, administration changes and money and energy dedicated to these programs declined and Smith found herself temporarily out of work.

“I found myself looking for similar work in the Mahoning Valley but was unsuccessful,” Smith said. “Around that time, Youngstown Fire Department was advertising their upcoming fire training academy. I felt that going through the training academy and pursuing a career as a firefighter would strengthen my background in training exercises.”

She said the academy was a great way to start a new career path while building upon the skills that would keep her connected to the work she enjoyed so much. When she started the course, she had no idea she would be changing her career path.

“I won’t be shy about saying that I had no idea what I was getting into,” she said. “I was the only female in my class and was older than everyone else by at least 10 years. Turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life and upon graduation, I wished that I had found this much earlier in life. I enjoyed both the physical and mental challenges of the training. I loved the comradery, the teamwork, and proudly finished at the top of my class. What started as a means to an end turned into newfound passion.”

While attending the classes, Smith was a volunteer with the Western Reserve Joint Fire District in Poland. She also worked for the Brookfield Fire Department as a firefighter / emergency medical tech, and currently volunteers with the Ellsworth Fire Department.

At the fire academy, Smith met several individuals who were working at the Cardinal Joint Fire District and they suggested applying.

In 2014, Smith applied to the CJFD and worked part time.

As for moving up the ladder: “I am thrilled and bursting with pride,” Smith said. “My goal from Day One at CJFD was to earn a full-time position, and although I’ve held all of the necessary training and certifications for several years, with young kids I didn’t feel I could make the commitment to a full-time position.”

Smith lives in Ellsworth in with her husband Edward, son Michael, 11, and daughter Abigail, 13.

She said today’s fire service offers a lot of satisfaction and she highly recommends it to men and women considering a career path.

“You hear it all the time, that this is the best job in the world, and it is,” Smith said.

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