Teen firefighter from Cheswick continues family legacy
Though firefighting runs in her family, when she was younger, Cheswick's Heather Sandusky was unsure about whether she wanted to step up and join the ranks.
Her father, Cheswick Volunteer Fire Company Chief Lindsay Sandusky, would often ask her to come down to the station with him when she was a little girl, she recalls.
She was busy at that time with horses and the 4-H club.
Finally, when she was 16 years old, Sandusky, now 18, decided to listen to dad and give firefighting a chance.
Those first few steps toward involvement at Cheswick's company sparked a deep interest in firefighting and emergency rescue.
She received her Firefighter 1 certification, which enables a firefighter to enter a burning building. She also became an emergency medical technician and received her basic vehicle rescue certification, among numerous other training certifications.
This year, she is the fire company's assistant secretary and second lieutenant. She is also a member of the Penn Hills Volunteer Fire Department.
“I never saw myself doing it, but I love it now and wouldn't trade it for the world,” she said.
“I figured just that I'd be a year member,” she said. “But it's become my life.”
That life is one that has been recognized recently, by both the borough and the Community College of Allegheny County.
Last month, Cheswick honored her with a proclamation of appreciation, recognizing her dedication to serving the community as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.
She also received a full scholarship to CCAC through its Fire Volunteer Education, Service and Training Scholarship program. She will begin college in the fall and plans to study nursing.
Also known as FireVEST, the CCAC scholarship provides not only for the full scholarship in a certificate or associate degree program at the college, it covers training at the Allegheny County Fire Academy.
“I think she's well-deserving of it,” said Cheswick Fire Company president Joe Ferrero, who helped nominate Sandusky for the award.
“Her dedication to fire service, EMT and everything else as a young woman has been very outstanding.”
Long-time fire company member and past fire chief David Gillard agrees.
“It just amazed me,” he said of her efforts, adding that her leadership qualities make Sandusky a standout.
“She's not afraid to take on anything.”
While Sandusky said she was surprised to receive the honors, giving back is not uncommon for the Springdale High School graduate.
“It's just something I was raised with. If you do something to give back, give it your best and your all.”
Not only giving back, but firefighting, is in her blood.
Her grandfather was a firefighter in Michigan. Both of her brothers, Joshua and Lindsay, are volunteer firefighters as well.
That doesn't mean that her position at the fire company isn't unique. According to Gillard, Sandusky is only the second woman to join the company as an active firefighter. Sandusky herself is aware of that distinction.
“You don't see many female firefighters, let alone female officers,” she said.
The company has been receptive, treating her as “one of the guys” and approving a revision of the bylaws, which incorporated gender-inclusive language.
For her father, seeing the self-described “daddy's little girl” grow up to follow in the family's footsteps is touching.
“It's fantastic for a young teen to take such an interest in the community,” he said. “Her mom and I are very, very proud of her.”
Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Boscov’s could help sustain decade-old Pittsburgh Mills
- Entertainment attractions going strong in Pittsburgh Mills mall
- Turbine touted as ‘green’ to power historic Penn Township barn
- Arnold family back home after gas leak
- New Ken-Arnold School Board appears to have violated Sunshine Law
- Mia Z voices no regrets after failing to advance on NBC show
- Slide threatens to block access to Harmar neighborhood
- West Deer burglary suspect arrested
- Greene County man found guilty in New Kensington beating death
- Mia Z fans sing the blues, as Kiski Area student leaves ‘The Voice’
- Retired New Kensington attorney Robert McVey spent life helping people