Joan Byrne was a member of the first combined Town and District Structural Firefighter recruit class held in 2001. She was an active firefighter for ten years until she developed arthritis in her hands and felt that she was a safety hazard to her fellow fighters. So, she came out of the “hot zone” and became a member of the logistics team for San Juan Island Fire and Rescue.
She came to the island in 1992 because it was a good place to raise her two children. Byrne became a firefighter because she felt the need for an extended family and a larger group of support members. Also, Byrne was deathly afraid of fire and she thought that by joining the fire department she would get over that fear. It worked because she learned all about fire behavior and had the support of her fellow firefighters.
“If you know and understand something you are less fearful of it,” she said.
In 2005 she became an Emergency Medical Technician and volunteered with both fire and EMS until her retirement from EMS 2010.
Byrne’s awards include Firefighter of the Year for Station 34 in 2002 and for Station 35 in 2004. In 2008, Byrne received recognition for outstanding contribution to Fire Prevention and the Smokey Bear Program. She has also received the Golden Stethoscope Award for doing rehabilitation for firefighters on the fire line (taking vital signs, making sure they are hydrated and enforce rest periods before returning to fire fighting duties).
Her private life job is being a home health assistant on the island .
Byrne has been the secretary of Fire Fighters Association for many years and helps plan for the Fire Fighters’ Banquet each year. Being a member of the Fire Fighter Association, involves Byrne with giving out scholarships for a fire fighter’s further education, scholarships for their children for school, helping department members with unanticipated expenses.
Her job in logistics is not only preparing meals for firefighters on the fire line but might include directing traffic during fire activity and filling the air bottles that firefighters use. She loves learning new recipes and being able to feed many firefighters in an emergency. This gives her a sense of being a part of a family and connected to those she is helping. For those married to firefighters, Byrne says it is a good way to be involved with what his/her spouse does and meet the people they are involved with. Joan needs and enjoys the challenges of her many roles in the fire department.
San Juan Island Fire and Rescue welcomes all interested men and women ages 16 years and above to drop by the Mullis Street Station and make and appointment to see what it is all about. It offers some fun ancillary positions, such as logistics, as well. Look online at www.sjifire.org for lots of good information. Or you could view its Facebook page: San Juan Island Fire & Rescue. Our number 360-378-5334.