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UCFD #1 Hot Seat: Melissa Overstreet

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It’s time for the second edition of the UCFD1 Hot Seat. The Hot Seat provides a brief snapshot sharing a story of a highly committed and dedicated staff member.

It is with great pleasure UCFD1 introduces to you, Melissa Overstreet. Overstreet was hired by UCFD1 in July 2019, marking her place as the first female career firefighter/paramedic hired in the District. She was born in Walla Walla, WA and moved to Pendleton, OR in 1996 where she worked at Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center. Without any family members working in the fire service, she took it upon herself to take the plunge into a new career path. Working her way up from the bottom, she did temp work from 2013 to 2017 at Umatilla Tribal Fire Department, Pendleton Fire Department and UCFD1. Overstreet explains, “So the fire service for me was kind of a second career, I’d always wanted to be a paramedic and I was at a time in my life where I either needed to make it happen or let that dream go.” “I was working for Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center at the time and my contract was ending, so I was going to have to find another job anyway. I just decided, you know what, I’ve always wanted to do it and this is the time to do it. I didn’t get it in into it for fire, but after my first house fire, I was like, alright, this is awesome. And since I worked temp, I would have periods of time off and I found that I actually missed it. So I figured, you know, what, if I’m missing it, then this is probably the place for me,” she added.

A 2020 report from the National Fire Protection Association provides an overview of 29,705 local and municipal fire departments in the country and estimates that in 2018, only 93,700, or eight percent, of the 1,115,000 career/volunteer firefighters in the United States were female. “So they tell me that I was the first female hired career. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. As a female, you can choose to set yourself aside or try to be one of the guys. I feel like you have to set a precedent to make it easier for other females to be involved,” said Overstreet. Becoming the first female career firefighter/paramedic for UCFD1 was no easy task, as Overstreet spent lots time and money traveling to Seattle and Portland to pass her physical agility test. “I hate tests. So as soon as they got the chiefs out there with a stopwatch to do it, I usually fail the first time because I would get so nervous and mess up. But I never, never quit. I never stopped moving forward. And I honestly think that’s why I got the job more than anything, not being a female, but because I never quit,” she explained.

If Overstreet isn’t working on C-shift for 48 hours, she might be spending quality time with her boyfriend, her dogs and her two kids. They enjoy going on road-trips, camping, dirt-biking and riding their side-by-sides up in the mountains. She also works at Blue Mountain Community College as an EMS Coordinator and teaches EMT Basic/EMT Advanced classes. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Overstreet couldn’t hire any teachers so she was in charge of teaching all of the classes, the paramedic lab and running the whole program. “This year has been a little more than what I would have liked,” said Overstreet. 

When asked what she enjoys most about working at UCFD1, Overstreet answered, “Meeting the patients, talking to them and being there to help them through whatever process that they’re going through, whether it’s falling on the floor or talking to them while we are getting them out of a car as we extricate, I enjoy that portion of it and I’ve found that I miss it when I wasn’t doing it.”

It is our goal to bring the community closer with our District by telling the stories of the men and women who represent Umatilla County Fire District #1. It’s better to meet them, before you need them.