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It's already getting hot when the class runs into the weight room. Less than halfway through their morning physical-training regimen, sweat darkens the cadets' gray T-shirts.

The future Santa Fe Santa Fe, city, Argentina
Santa Fe, city (1991 pop. 341,000), capital of Santa Fe prov., NE Argentina, a river port near the Paraná, with which it is connected by canal.
 firefighters still have an hour to go before they get to sit down, and making it through the training instructor's morning drilling is a mental

challenge as much as a physical one.

On the treadmill, Faith

Applewhite quietly hits a button that increases the speed of the machine. She locks her gaze on a point ahead and jogs faster.

Applewhite is a standout in her class for more than one reason. Sure, she's the only female cadet, but she's also one of the only new trainees to come to the department with a paramedic par·a·med·ic
A person who is trained to give emergency medical treatment or assist medical professionals.

 license in her wallet. At 24, she already has seven years of on-the-job experience under her belt.

"I'm so ready to get back in the field," she said during a break after she finished a written test before the allotted al·lot  
tr.v. al·lot·ted, al·lot·ting, al·lots
1. To parcel out; distribute or apportion: allotting land to homesteaders; allot blame.

 time. "I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 how to not make this sound corny corn·y  
adj. corn·i·er, corn·i·est
Trite, dated, melodramatic, or mawkishly sentimental.

[From corn1.
, but it's kind of an honor to be able to help people when they really need it."

Applewhite began volunteering with Santa Fe County's Hondo volunteers in 2000 and was soon one of the youngest people in New Mexico New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S).  to earn an emergency medical technician e·mer·gen·cy medical technician
n. Abbr. EMT
A person trained and certified to appraise and initiate the administration of emergency care for victims of trauma or acute illness before or during transportation of victims to a health care
 basic license. She advocated for a change at the state Legislature A state legislature may refer to a legislative branch or body of a political subdivision in a federal system.

The following legislatures exist in the following political subdivisions:
 that allowed teenagers under the age of 18 to test for the license, then did so right away -- just before she turned 17.

She worked as a professional firefighter for Santa Fe County, Espa[+ or -]ola Valley EMS and other services in the region, even flying home from college in Walla Walla Walla Walla (wŏl`ə wŏl`ə), city (1990 pop. 26,478), seat of Walla Walla co., SE Wash., at the junction of the Walla Walla River and Mill Creek, near the Oregon line; inc. 1862. , Wash., to pull 48-hour shifts in New Mexico while earning her bachelor's degree. Her new job with the city will be her first full-time gig, and she looks forward to its rewards.

"It's always nice when you can do something that provides definitive care on scene ... give a diabetic person some sugar or a heroin overdose some Narcan that completely turns them around and brings them back to life ... or a rescue call when you get someone out of a bad situation without being injured. Those are all good calls."

The cadet breaks into a smile easily to reveal tiny spaces between each of her teeth. That, coupled with giggles that frequently accompany her speech, gives her a measure of adolescent charm.

Her black boots angle toward each other, pigeon-toed, when she stands casually, but that posture vanishes as she leaps bolt-upright when one of the training officers comes through the door.

Cadets expect to graduate from the 18-week academy three weeks from now, at which point they join the ranks of the Fire Department on a probationary status. Many of them are there as a way to live out lifelong dreams; others are seeking an alternative career path than the one they first chose; for others it's both.

Take Michael-John Harcharik, another of the handful of Santa Fe natives in the class. Harcharik gave up on studying to be an engineer when he realized it was a desk job, then worked at the Santa Fe County jail. When asked how he ended up at the Fire Department, he gives a answer common among his colleagues.

"When I was a little kid, I liked firetrucks. I always wanted to be a fireman," he said, later calling it "the best job in the world."

The new world for cadets includes a barrage of acronyms, from the three letters that represent their blue latex gloves -- BSI BSI - British Standards Institute , for body substance isolation -- to the six steps for performing a rapid analysis of a patient's situation, which spell SAMPLE.

Other skills they must learn include keeping patients calm and helping them and their families understand what is happening in a medical emergency.

Santa Fe's Fire Department goes well beyond its obvious charge of fighting and preventing fires. Like most places where public safety workers also serve as medical first responders, the department does more patient care than anything else. Last year, about 85 percent of calls were for emergency medical services An Emergency medical service (abbreviated to initialism "EMS" in many countries) is a service providing out-of-hospital acute care and transport to definitive care, to patients with illnesses and injuries which the patient believes constitutes a medical emergency. .

Cadets who come from varied backgrounds -- college athlete, stonemason, airplane-maker and personal trainer personal trainer person n(persönlicher) Fitnesstrainer m, (persönliche) Fitnesstrainerin f  -- have nicknames for each other such as Skelator, Precious, Babydoll, Grandpa and, for Applewhite, Tofu. Getting into the class is no small feat. About 350 people applied, and after a long written exam, physical-agility test and psychological exam, only 20 were admitted to the academy.

Applewhite practiced for her most daunting daunt  
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.

[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin
 task -- the initial physical test -- by running up Atalaya Hill wearing a weight vest and repeatedly working on other skills such as hoisting hose.

Although the city's department does include six other female firefighters History
Historically, firefighting has been regarded as primarily a male activity. Nonetheless, there have been numerous women who actively fought fire alongside their male counterparts.
, men easily outnumber women. One sign that times might be changing is the city's recent approval of Barbara Salas to take over as fire chief when Chris Rivera retires later this summer.

"She'll be a role model," said Applewhite. "I think there are strong women in the city and in the county (fire departments) who are already role models, but having one in such a public position will probably be good for helping women feel like they can do it."

Once the cadet academy program begins, the new recruits work on specific firefighter skills, physical fitness and medical knowledge.

Engineer and training officer Freddy Martinez takes pride in the daily fitness plan he developed for the class to increase muscle stamina, used for the first time this year.

"Half of them couldn't do a real pull-up when they got here and now they do 40," he said, stopwatch in hand as he monitored their workouts and barked orders. "It's good to see end product. You really see them jell jell  
v. jelled, jell·ing, jells

1. To become firm or gelatinous; congeal. See Synonyms at coagulate.

 and work as a team and become a group together."

Cadets, even those who are in excellent physical condition, agree the training is rigorous.

"You become numb to the pain is what happens. It doesn't get easier," said Tyler Jones, a former Los Alamos Los Alamos (lôs ăl`əmōs', lŏs), uninc. town (1990 pop. 11,455), seat of Los Alamos co., N central N.Mex. It is on a long mesa extending from the Jemez Mts. The U.S.  firefighter who also has a degree in nursing.

For some of the department's old-timers, including Assistant Chief Ted Bolleter, the cadet academy is quite a different experience now compared to when they came up.

"It hurts to watch them sometimes," said Bolleter as the cadets dropped in from a standing position into a push-up position for the 20th time in a row.

Now four firefighters work as training officers, including Battalion Chief Dave Huckabee and Capt. Greg Cliburn, who on a recent day took turns lecturing about patient communication in a classroom connected to Fire Station 4. Huckabee is leaving the department soon to teach emergency medicine at Santa Fe Community College
For the two-year college in Gainesville, Florida, see Santa Fe Community College (Florida)

Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) is a two-year community college located in New Mexico, whose main campus is on 366 acres (148 hectares) just southwest of

"You will be influencing department policy," Cliburn told the students after a debate over the ethics of ambulance billing. "Someday one of you will be chief. One of you will be medical officer. You won't be rookies forever."

Contact Julie Ann Grimm

at 986-3017 or
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Publication:The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM)
Date:Jul 4, 2009

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