Harlingen Fire Department hires first female firefighter

Women in the past have tried to become firefighters in Harlingen, but after numerous attempts, Bree Rios is the only one to pass the firefighter exam in its entirety.

“Here in Harlingen, it’s a first and I’m proud to be that person,” said Harlingen firefighter Bree Rios.

Rios' father, Victor Rios, is an engineer for the Harlingen Fire Department. He said his daughter has been around firefighters since childhood.

“When she was little she told me, 'Well, one of these days I’m going to work with you, daddy,'” said Victor Rios.

Now, close to 20 years later-- she’s making her dream a reality.

“It’s just something that I wanted to do ever since I was younger," Rios said. "Being at the station and hanging out is something that I fell in love with.”

In the short amount of time of being part of the Harlingen Fire Department, Rios says she's been getting noticed more around the city.

“I’ve had people reach out to me, girls out in public say, ‘Hey aren’t you that girl or hey I’ve heard about you, you look familiar,'" Rios said. "I’ve realized how big of an impact it’s made, and it’s only been not even a week yet.”

To prepare for the fire department, Rios got an Emergency Medical Services certification and worked as an Emergency Medical Technician for eight months.

Rios' path to become a firefighter was no easy task; She took the firefighter exam three times.

Rios passed the exam on her third try.

From the beginning, her dad was there to cheer her on.

"The day of my agility exam, for example, he took me to the side and he broke down--he started crying, saying 'You can do this,'" Rios said. "He was trying to give me words of inspiration, but instead I'm like, 'Dad, you're supposed to be pumping me up here, and you're bringing me down. I'm so emotional right now.'"

Rios' fellow firefighters are not only excited for her, but they believe she’ll fit right in.

“I have no doubt in my mind that she will be able to physically be able to do anything and everything every other firefighter here at this job is required to do,” said Harlingen Fire Department Lt. Jamie Quiroga.

Even when Rios faced failure, she refused to give up.

“To the females and the women, and the young girls of the community: If you set your mind to something and you really want to do it, go out and do it," said Rios. "It can happen.”

Rios still needs to complete orientation and the firefighter course. Rios won't work directly with the fire department for another four months.

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