Summer camp fueled young firefighter’s career choice

Marble Falls Fire Rescue firefighter Bailee Jordan

Marble Falls Fire Rescue firefighter Bailee Jordan prepares for her first day. The 2018 Marble Falls High School graduate caught the firefighting bug at fire department's 2013 summer camp. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

About seven years ago, Bailee Jordan was a Marble Falls Middle School student who didn’t know much about firefighting, let alone have any interest in pursuing it as a career. But during the 2013 summer between her seventh- and eighth-grade years, she spent a week at the Marble Falls Fire Rescue firefighting camp.

“On the fourth day, we did an evolution where they filled the room with smoke, and we had to put on all the gear and go in,” Jordan recalled. “After that, I was hooked.”

Jordan returned the next two summers to help the firefighters with the camp.

Then, on May 11, Jordan stepped back into the Marble Falls Fire Rescue station, not as a camper, but as a firefighter.

Jordan joined the Marble Falls unit as part-time crew member. She’ll undergo training for the department’s protocols and equipment and begin filling slots where needed.

“It’s pretty cool to have her come back as a firefighter,” Capt. Coy Guenter said. He was one of the firefighters who helped with the fire camp Jordan attended. “I think, for most of us here, this is a pretty proud moment, knowing we helped change someone’s life. And that summer camp got her interested in firefighting, and now she’s a firefighter.”

The journey from summer camp to professional firefighter took work.

After high school graduation, Jordan attended EMT training through Central Texas College. The six-month course was held in Burnet.

Guenter pointed out that earning the EMT certificate is a prerequisite to becoming a firefighter in Texas.

It also presented Jordan with a choice. She could study to become a paramedic or head for fire school.

Actually, there really never was a choice. Jordan knew exactly where her path lay.

In January of this year, Jordan moved to College Station, where she began the Texas A&M University’s Firefighter Recruit Training Academy. The 12-week program is the first step in becoming a professional firefighter.

“The first day shocks you a bit because you don’t know what to expect,” Jordan said. 

Once the recruits settle in, they get four days of physical training a week, three days in the classroom studying, and two days in the field putting their studies into action.

“If you’re not good at studying, or can’t handle class work, this isn’t the career for you,” Guenter added with a laugh. “You have a lot of studying. Even when you’re a firefighter with a department, you’re always learning.”

Jordan graduated from the firefighting academy in March, and then looked for a job.

She landed the part-time position with Marble Falls Fire Rescue, and is applying at other Central Texas fire departments for a full-time spot.

But she’s not letting the opportunity to work with the Marble Falls department go to waste. On her first day, Guenter and other crew members began introducing her to the standards and protocols for the department.

“We start with orientation, getting her familiar with our gear and equipment and how we do things,” Guenter said. “We also feel a responsibility to coach them, mentor them, and help them find a full-time job.”

Looking back at the fire camp some seven years ago, Jordan admitted filling out the application and attending it were not something she would typically do. She was just curious about firefighting, not looking for a career.

If there’s something she’d share with young people thinking about the future, it’s to just try something new.

“It’s exciting to know when you look at something you were just curious about, it can be something you dedicate your life to,” Jordan said. “That’s what happened to me.

Marble Falls Fire Rescue officials have canceled this year’s firefighting camp.

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