ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The city is welcoming its first full-time female firefighter as an employee of the Cumberland Trail Fire District.
Sarah Starr of Dillonvale started work at Cumberland Trail about two months ago. She has roots in Tiltonsville and brings a wealth of experience in the job.
“I have been doing this for over 15 years,” she said. “I’m a firefighter Level-2 and a paramedic.”
This is the highest level of certification and includes training in advanced rescue and prevention concepts. Starr said her skills include search and recovery diving, confined space training, as well as training for fires involving oil and gas.
“There’s all kinds of stories to tell. I’ve had a few Star of Life achievements, which is when someone’s in cardiac arrest and you bring them back and they walk out of the hospital and they get to live their life,” she said. “It’s very satisfying.”
She worked at fire departments in Tiltonsville, Brilliant and the OR&W Fire District in Shadyside before starting at Cumberland Trail.
“As far as working here, I work with some of the most skilled firefighters and paramedics that I could imagine. They’re very supportive,” she said, adding she is impressed by the fire district’s professionalism and attentiveness to training and equipment for firefighters.
“They make you feel very welcome here. They make sure you know everything there is to know to fulfill your skills,” Starr said.
“I don’t get treated any differently, which is what I absolutely admire, because once you have your gear and your facepiece on, they don’t know whether you’re male or female. So you get treated fairly and I don’t get treated any different, which is what I really respect and what I was looking for.
“It’s not about making history, just serving the city and being involved in the challenge of a high-call volume fire department, which challenges us and allows us to be proficient in our skills and abilities to take care of the citizens here.”
Starr said her family history was one motivator, pointing to her father, Donald Starr.
“My father was a firefighter for Glen Robbins a long time ago, and it’s just kind of been in our family,” she said. “I hope to continue doing this until I retire and just keep taking more training and more classes so I can become better.”
Starr joins fellow female firefighter Paige Everly, who has been a firefighter since 2019 and a part-time member of the Cumberland Trail department for one year.
Everly is from Amsterdam and also works at Short Creek and Hopedale fire departments. She and Starr previously worked together with the Short Creek department.
“I was introduced by a friend,” she said.
She also was influenced by her father, Rick Everly.
“My dad was a volunteer before I was born,” she said.
Everly is a firefighter and EMT and is seeking additional paramedic training. She and Starr also are search and recovery divers.
“I just enjoy helping people and learning every day,” she said, adding she has also found a welcoming home in Cumberland Trail.
“I like it here,” she said. “I love all of my coworkers here. I don’t think it’s any different than if I would be walking in any other department as a woman. Everyone’s treated me equally.”
Fire Chief Tim Hall said the first female firefighter of the Cumberland Trail Fire District was Staci Trudo, from 1990-95.
“Paige crossed the threshold last year of applying as a part-time firefighter/EMT and was the first to kind of open that door for the next female in this department, and firefighter Starr took that a step further when applying for full-time and successfully obtaining full-time employment,” Hall said.
Hall said the firehouse has facilities such as separate bunk rooms at the second firehouse. The main firehouse has a common bunk room with temporary partitions for employees, whether male or female, in need of privacy.
“The two female firefighters … are no different than any other employees,” Hall said.
“I’m treated no differently and she’s treated no differently. We’re all equal here,” Starr said.
Hall commended Starr and Everly for the professionalism and skills they bring to the department.
“I’m very proud of what they have to offer not only the department but the citizens, and it shows that the fire district’s committed not only to saying we’re an equal opportunity employer on paper, but actions speak louder than words and weren’t committed to fulfilling that.”