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Hawthorne Makes History with First Female Fire Officer

Credits: Rebecca Morton

HAWTHORNE, NJ – Rebecca Morton, 24, made history by becoming the Hawthorne Fire Department’s first female lieutenant. 

She was promoted to the position of 2nd Lieutenant on January 1. Based out of the 2nd Tower Company on Llewellyn Avenue, Morton serves with her fellow firefighters in protecting the lives and property of both Hawthorne and surrounding area residents. 

Morton is originally from Ridgefield and moved to Hawthorne at the age of seven. She graduated from the Hawthorne public schools and has made the borough her home ever since. She works in banking while not battling the flames or responding to emergencies such as carbon monoxide, appliance fires, rescue, or the effects of burst pipes as a result of the recent brutal cold which visited the region. 

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“We are a small town that's changing rapidly. However, Hawthorne is still a community when things go wrong, people step up to help,” Morton said.

Within the first five days of the new year, the Hawthorne Fire Department had fifteen emergency calls.  In 2017, the department responded to 518 calls, up from the 457 calls in 2016 and 436 calls in 2015.

“Some of the new responsibilities as a 2nd Lieutenant are assisting with fire training and weekly drills, maintaining the fire apparatus, tools, and equipment and leading crews into incidents as well as assisting in their readiness when arriving at an incident,” she told TAPinto Hawthorne.

She said the specialized equipment offered by Hawthorne’s Tower Company means that they frequently bring support to calls in Paterson. Additionally, the Hawthorne Fire Department provides response support to the borough of Glen Rock, meaning that Hawthorne firefighters serve above and beyond the typical expectations of a borough volunteer. Indeed, her initial interview with TAPinto Hawthorne was cut short by a fire call—there is no rest for Hawthorne’s best.

“The fire department is a place I’ve been able to grow throughout the past six years. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a firehouse that has pushed me to be my best self since Day One and a department that has shown nothing but support with not only me, but all our members,” Morton said.

Firefighters are dedicated to serving their community at the very real risk to their own well-being.  In addition to their willingness to face the external challenges, Morton found service with the department as a way to push her internal challenges.  “My motivation to become a firefighter was to challenge myself to do something that I wouldn’t normally think was within my limits and to prove myself wrong.”  And she has succeeded.

Morton praised the borough’s fire department for its inclusiveness and the benefits it brings both to the town and to those who volunteer.  “If anyone feels like they are interested and concerned that they won’t be a good fit, I can assure you that there will be a place for you in any firehouse and in this department.”

The strength of the town’s fire readiness lies with its volunteer firefighters.  “We have five separate fire houses located all over town. Each firehouse has its own specific job.”  For those who want to see about volunteering, she offered her insights.  “Find one closest to your home and come down on a Monday night around 7:00 p.m.  Usually, there will be someone there to take you on a tour or introduce you to some awesome people. We also have phone numbers listed on the department website and you can always call in advance and leave a message so someone will be expecting you.”

As she has been in the fire department for six years, and has assumed a leadership position within, her sincerity is beyond question when speaking of the team that makes up our borough’s firefighters.  She recalled her experience a positive one from the beginning.  “When I was signing up I was definitely nervous to go down to the firehouse, but the first day everyone was extremely supportive and happy to have the help and new people on board. “

The uniqueness of being the first woman to become a line officer in the Hawthorne Fire Department is not lost on her, and she offered her thoughts to other women who might not have given thought to volunteering before.  “I would say to anyone that has the passion to do something that they’re not sure they can accomplish, to just go for it.  If you have the time to dedicate and the motivation to try, the fire department would be a great place to take yourself out of your comfort zone and show yourself how much you can accomplish.  No matter size, gender, knowledge, or strength, there is a role you can fill on any fire department and we are always welcoming new members.”

Fire Chief Joseph Speranza was proud to have her on the team and Mayor Goldberg referred to the achievement of the Hawthorne Fire Department’s breaking of what had heretofore been an all-male fire officer cadre in his address at the Reorganization Meeting on January 7.  Of her fellow firefighters, she had glowing words. “The fire department is a lot like a family, we all look out for each other. You spend a lot of time with each other and build close friendships and learn to trust who you’re going inside on these calls with.”


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