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UCFD #1 Hot Seat: Angelina Prihodiko

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It’s time for the sixteenth edition of the UCFD #1 Hot Seat. The Hot Seat provides a brief snapshot sharing the story of a highly committed and dedicated staff member.

It is with great pleasure UCFD #1 introduces to you; Angelina Prihodiko. Prihodiko is originally from Vancouver, WA. Both of her parents, Vitaly and Tatyana, moved from Ukraine in the 1980s and made Vancouver their new home when they met each other in 1998. Six years later their daughter Angelina was born. Prihodiko grew up alongside six siblings, with her being the middle child. While growing up Prihodiko never had thought about a career in the fire service. She always thought she was going to go into a desk job, working in business, real estate, maybe even an accountant position. “Where I come from, females don’t have a wide variety of jobs that are available to them,” she stated. During her sophomore year at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Prihodiko decided to join the Cascadia Tech Academy. This academy was offered for high school students who want to get a jump start into a career path that interested them. Out of all 16 options with everything from cosmetology to culinary, Angelina decided to become a cadet in the fire service.

In spite of her preconceived notions about what the fire service entailed, it started to grow on her. The coronavirus pandemic corrupted her junior year with the program since everything was online via Zoom but she stuck with it. Fast forward to her senior year of high school and she is the Battalion Chief of her fellow cadets in the program. “The family and work environment grew on me,” said Prihodiko. The Cascadia Tech Academy allowed Angelina and her classmates to train, study and learn every single week, from 11:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The program was led by instructor Captain Grant at Clark County Fire District #6’s Station 61. “Everything was a learning experience that year. The more I did it, the more I wanted to put work into it. My passion for the fire service was something that grew on me,” recalled Prihodiko. “It became a big part of my day. It was the one thing I knew I could look forward to,” she added. Not everyone shared the same happiness for her career path though. This took time for her family to see how much it truly meant to her. “My family was strongly against the fire service when I first told them about it. My mom would ask me, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Especially where I come from, that’s not typically the job a female would do. I’m Russian and in our culture were supposed to cook, clean and stay home. My mom would tell me, ‘That’s such a manly thing to do. It’s not you. You’re too gentle, you don’t look like someone that would go into this job.’ I think it kind of grew on her because I was constantly talking about it. It became part of my personality,” Prihodiko stated. Mothers are always looking out for their children, and in a lot of cases they become their child’s biggest inspiration. This is the case for Angelina. “My mom is my biggest role model. That’s part of why I think she let me pick this career because she’s always been really independent too. Growing up, she did a lot. She’s very strong willed. I want to be more like her,” said Prihodiko.

Following her time at Cascadia Tech Academy, Prihodiko found herself a spot as a resident intern here at Umatilla County Fire District #1 in July of this year. This can be a big change for some people when they make the initial move away from their families. In Angelina’s case, she found her family, or brotherhood rather, right here at UCFD #1. “Even though I’m so far from my family, I didn’t lose the people guiding and looking out for me. I’m still young and I know I still have a lot to learn. It’s really nice that there’s people here that are willing to teach me and others around me who are learning alongside me,” said Prihodiko. Going on shift for the first 48 hour tour can also be a little scary. Staring into the eyes of fear itself is something that doesn’t phase Prihodiko. She believes it helps make her stronger. “I hated when people put me into a box and told me what I can’t do. It just encouraged me to do it more. It’s more proving to myself that I can do this, rather than to other people. My mind is telling me I can’t do it, but what if I can though? The biggest thing is to put yourself out there. I saw a quote once, and it went like, ‘Courage is not lack of fear, but acting in spite of it.’ I might not be the strongest person in the room or even close to it, but it’s all about technique for me. I want to show others that it always comes down to effort,” stated Prihodiko. “Firefighting is a very demanding job, don’t stop just because you think you’re going to fail or mess up,” she added. Around the world, the fire service is mostly outnumbered men. According to the National Fire Protection Association in 2020, 89,600 firefighters (9%) were female out of 1,041,200. This is something that can be challenging for some but not for Prihodiko. “My shift for me is more like a brotherhood. I grew up with so many brothers so I’m used to it. It’s kind of nice because you’ll do something wrong and the guys will lead you toward the right direction,” she declared.

Besides being a resident intern and a firefighter at UCFD #1, Angelina enjoys to be active with her free time. She enjoys drawing people’s portraits, reading, hiking, hanging out with friends, and when she was back home she really liked to work in the summer garden with her mom. “Life is short, go out and do what you think is fun,” she said.

Ironically enough, four years ago Angelina got her first taste of fire and it was her family’s home that fell victim to the flames. It was on Memorial Day during her freshman year of high school. Angelina, her siblings, and her Mom were all at the dentist when her Dad called to give them the bad news. “I remember walking up to our house and I started bawling. I told myself, my family doesn’t have a house anymore,” she recalled. This was the first time she’d ever seen firefighters working on a call. “I think that’s when I first saw firefighters working in action and I remember being in awe,” she said. “It was kind of beautiful seeing everyone come together and all of my neighbors helping us out. Your worst day isn’t your worst day in the end, it gets better,” Prihodiko proclaimed. 

If you are interested in starting a career in the fire service here is some advice from Angelina, “Honestly, as a child, I did not see myself being a firefighter at all. I want to make an impact for women everywhere and let them know that if this is something they want to pursue, they can. You need to put yourself out there and because I was really scared, I almost didn’t follow through with it. When you don’t know anything, it’s the fear of not knowing that stops you from doing what you want to do. You just learn as you go. The more I put myself out there and the more effort I put in, the more I see myself making steps towards making it in this career.”