FIRST RESPONDER PROFILE
“Look, mom, it’s a girl.”
It’s an exclamation heard more than once at public events when female firefighter Jenna Littmann bends down to allow a youngster to try on her protective turnout gear.
Littmann never takes such comments as anything but childish awe at seeing a woman in a role too often stereotyped as a male profession.
“I hear those comments with a sense of pride. I was rather shy as a child and never considered that I might someday be a role-model for youngsters.
“When representing Western Salisbury Volunteer Fire Company at a public event, I just see myself as doing my job and being ‘just one of the crew.’ Hearing those kind of comments, though, makes me want to show young people they can do something like this also,” Littmann said.
Littmann traces her desire to be in a public service career back to her childhood, growing up in Connecticut. Littmann’s mother, a 20-year-plus cancer survivor, always involved Jenna, her brother and two sisters, cousins and many in her extended family in ”Relay for Life” and “Race for the Cure” community events.
“That helped me to see being involved in community service was something bigger than myself.
“I was always curious about how to get to an end result. I loved putting together jigsaw puzzles to see the end result. I liked the sciences for the same reason; you could go through a process and get to see the end result.”
Excelling in high school math and science, Littmann chose to attend Muhlenberg College because of its strong academic reputation in the sciences. While at Muhlenberg, she saw a recruiting brochure from Cetronia Ambulance Corps, looking for emergency medical Technician candidates. She did not respond, though, because the training program seemed too daunting to go through alone.
In Littmann’s junior year, her brother, Tyler, arrived as a student at Muhlenberg and expressed an interest in the EMT program, and she said, “Let’s do it.”
Becoming an emergency medical technician through the EMT training at Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Emergency Medical Institute confirmed to Jenna she wanted to “be in medicine, particularly emergency medicine.” She joined the Cetronia Ambulance Corps, running calls as an EMT, in April 2012.
Graduating from Muhlenberg in 2013, Littmann went on to get a master’s degree in biomedical sciences to better prepare her to apply for medical school.
She applied and was accepted as a med student in 2015 at the Geisinger Commonwealth College of Medicine, in Scranton, where she is now a second-year medical student.
She continues to commute to the Lehigh Valley to run shifts with Cetronia Ambulance Corps crews.
Through her EMT experience, Littmann said she got to see the value of cooperative services with fire service crews. She joined Western Salisbury Fire Department in early 2016 to further her community service training as a firefighter.
Littmann said she has never encountered any gender roadblocks in her two years as a Western Salisbury firefighting crew member. She “gears up” and runs calls doing everything her male counterparts are called on to perform. She is a certified interior firefighter and a trained vehicle rescue technician.
Littmann’s EMT experience is a plus for the fire company, which runs more than two dozen motor vehicle accident calls a year and, for several years, has been included in dozens more “quick response” medical emergency calls in the township.
And she claims no gender exceptions. Other crew members say she more than carries her share of non-fire-ground firefighter duties – rolling hoses, maintaining engine compartments, truck and gear check-out lists and sweeping the station floor.
Littmann sees her fire crew time as a learning experience.
“I can ask the chief, any officer or another crew member any question I might have, and they all give me the time to explain how things are done to watch out for each other and do things safely.”
That camaraderie extends to Littmann’s fire-ground experience. She said her most-memorable call involved multiple fire departments at a middle-of-the-night house fire in an adjacent fire district involving the home of a first responder from another municipality.
“It did not matter the color of your truck or your turnout gear,” Littmann said. “We were there to put out the fire and support our ‘brother’.”
Littmann is looking forward to the next step in her medical career as she begins general rotations to help her decide whether surgery, internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics or OB-GYN specialties hold the most draw for her.
She plans to keep running EMT and fire calls as long as her medical school training schedule allows.
When anyone remarks her volunteer fire service is out of the ordinary, she is quick to respond, “If I can do it, you can too. If you have any interest, give it a try. You won’t know if it’s for you if you don’t.”