Student fits in as firefighter
Woyak volunteers her time in Iola
By Holly Neumann
Not only is MacKenzie Woyak a senior at Iola-Scandinavia High School, she is also an active member of the Iola and Rural Fire Department.
“I decided to become a firefighter because of my dad being in the service for 16 years,” she said. “Being able to do different activities with the fire department while growing up allowed me to gain an appreciation for what they do for our own community and other communities around us.”
Woyak enjoys being able to help others whenever she can. She is currently taking a Firefighter 1 class at Fox Valley Technical College and recently earned her entry-level certification.
“This allows me to go into a burning structure or to pack up if there is a call where I need to be on a self-contained breathing apparatus,” she said.
Woyak has not gone into A burning structure, but did respond to a fire on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve fire
“I got to the station and went straight to my gear and put it on as fast as I could,” she said. “When doing all of this, your heart is beating fast and your adrenaline is just pumping through your body because you only know so much about what you are responding to.”
While en route to the scene, Woyak looked out the back of the engine and saw a bright orange glow.
“I was speechless about how big the fire was since I hadn’t ever seen something like it before,” she said. “I was so grateful that I had my crew members there with me because they have seen fires like this before.”
Once Woyak was off of the engine, the captain showed her a few different ways to work the hose while putting out the fire.
“It was scary for me at first, but I realized that being involved with more of these situations over time will help me build my confidence as a firefighter,” she said.
Woyak said the hardest part of the job is focusing on where her center of attention needs to be.
“There are so many things happening all at once,” she said. “It is easy to get distracted by the big picture instead of focusing on what I have to do individually.”
She tries to learn something new from each call she responds to, as each call requires a different response.
“When we get paged for a lift assist to help our paramedics, in that situation I need to go straight to the scene,” she said. “If we have someone who is hurt and in a wooded area, we would go to the station, gear up then respond with the proper emergency vehicle. I have also learned which vehicles need to respond to different calls.”
Despite her young age, Woyak feels she has the respect of other members in the department.
“I know that gaining their trust is also a big part of being a team member,” she said. “That will take more time to build while gaining more experiences.”
Woyak plans to remain with the department after she graduates.
“My plan is to stick with the department while I am attending school at Mid-State Technical College,” she said. “After I finish college, I will wait and see where I will end up getting my first job as a nurse. Hopefully, if I do move, there will be a volunteer fire department that I will be able to join.”
Being a firefighter helped prepare Woyak for the future.
“While taking my Firefighter 1 class, I found that there were some fears which I needed to overcome,” she said. “My instructor taught me that when I get to a certain point where I’m afraid, I should challenge myself to go two steps more than what I am comfortable with. I believe that I am able to take what my instructor told me and put that into my own life when I may be struggling with a challenge.
“I know that there will be more challenges along the road I am traveling as a firefighter which help me become even stronger,” she added. “In addition, I appreciate how I am able to learn different procedures and to learn how I can address different types of incidents that we may encounter at training each month with my fellow crew members.”
Woyak said being a member of department has been an amazing experience and she hopes to encourage the younger generation to join the department.
Anyone interested in joining the Iola and Rural Department and Ambulance Service can call 715-445-2515.
“It’s important for younger adults to consider volunteering their time for their fire departments because they will eventually need to continue the legacy,” Woyak said. “I know that everyone in our department, and other fire departments, would love to see some new young faces join the family and help them to grow bigger throughout the years to come.”