ISFSI Member Spotlight: Kayla Wilson

1. Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service

I have always been interested in the fire service and if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would say a firefighter! As I got older things changed and life took me down a different path for a bit. I was working as a ski patroller and had my OEC (outdoor emergency care) but was looking at going through an EMT course as that gave me more options for a career. During my ride along for my EMT the fire department I was riding with was paged out to a structure fire, a very smart captain pulled me off the ambulance to respond in the engine with them and boom that spark was rekindled. I knew that was the career I wanted! Shortly after that a move brought me back home to beautiful Montana where I was able to start volunteering for the local fire department and eventually hired on full time. I have been in the fire service for 3 years now and it is the best decision I have ever made!


2. Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor

In my pervious life as a ski patroller I was blessed with having an amazing patrol director GR Fletcher, he valued training and really pushed people to be the best that they could be as an individual and as a team. He made a big impact on my life and showed me you can share your passion for your job through teaching others. Another inspiration to me and the person who introduced me to ISFSI is Seth Barker. Chief Barker works for a neighboring department and came to our department to put on his fire dynamics class. His love for the job showed in how he taught his class. Because of these experiences I have a strong passion for learning and teaching others what I have learned.


3. What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that

Right now I am trying to change the culture in my department from “this is how we have always done it” to a culture of learning. Change can be hard, but sometimes change is necessary to adapt to the ever-changing world that is the fire service. Building construction changes, new tools become available or somebody figures out a better way to more efficiently complete a task. With all that being said we still can’t forget where we come from. I believe there is a lot to learn from our past.


4. Tell us about a project or a training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career

I am still early in my career so I don’t feel that I have a single great accomplishment to show. But something that I consider to be significant thus far for me in my career is having the opportunity to go to Indianapolis to FDIC. It was a goal that I set for myself about 3 months before FDIC and was able to raise the funds myself to attend the conference I was able to learn a lot of new skills from amazing instructors and that has enabled me to bring those skills to my own department not only to better myself but to benefit my department as well. Thus furthering my goal of changing the culture of “this is how we have always done it” in my department.


5. What do you hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor

I am still new in the fire service, only being in it for three years But one day hope to be able to share my love and knowledge of the fire service through being a fire service instructor.

5a. When you are gone what do you want people to remember you by

I hope that people will remember me as the person who was constantly trying to do the right thing and make the fire service better for future fire fighters. I also hope that they remember my dedication and love for my family. I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support.


6. What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you have started

With still being so new I personally have not seen many changes in the fire service as a whole. But at the current department I work for I have slowly started to see the moral of our department to slowly improve as training has become more of a priority.


7. What is something that most people don’t know about you

I grew up next to Yellowstone National Park and because of that I have a love for the outdoors. My family and I are constantly looking for our next adventure. Whether that is fishing, hiking, cross country skiing or just enjoying where we are at.


8. If you could choose your title (other than the generic Training Officer or Firefighter) that uniquely describes you in your position, what would it be and why

I would say a mental and physical health advocate. Our job is very mentally and physically demanding. It is easy to put ourselves on the back burner when we are worried about others in the line of duty. We can’t take care of others if we don’t first take care of ourselves physically and especially mentally. Everyone handles things in their own ways, what works for some won’t work for others, show compassion to each other. Seeking professional help doesn’t make you weak or any less of a firefighter and from my experience makes you a stronger.


9. And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor

As someone who is just starting out in their fire career its hard to give anyone advice, but some things I have learned are that actions speak louder than words. You can learn from great leaders but you can also learn what not to do from poor ones. Always nurture your love for learning and seek new opportunities for learning. Never underestimate your true potential and keep striving for the best possible version of yourself. Step up and be the example you wish you had. It’s easy to complain but it’s hard to stand up and actually make change. It’s more rewarding and you will find there are others out there like you, they were just waiting for you to take the first step.

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