Young firefighter proves herself, becomes a lieutenant

Virginia Massey was just days old when she responded to her first fire department call.

"When I went to pick up my wife and [Virginia] at the hospital, I had my other daughter with me," former Chief Kurt Massey, Virginia's father, said. "On the way back before we even got home, we responded to an alarm."

Now she is 20 and making history as the first elected female officer in the Eastport Fire Department on Long Island. Massey holds the title of second lieutenant for the Mercury Hose Company.

"I do it because we're helping people on the worst night of their lives," Massey said. "Being there to comfort someone in their worst moment ever really means a lot to me."

Fighting fires runs in the family. Her father was chief in the 1990s and her 87-year-old grandfather is still an active member. 

"I've had a lot of people encouraging me to keep moving up in the ranks," Massey said, "and I really hope that's the direction my life will go in."

Massey joined the junior firefighter company when she was just 12. There she was the group's captain and was recognized as Junior Firefighter of the Year.

At 17, she went on to become the fifth female volunteer firefighter since the station opened in 1913.

"It is a predominantly male occupation but I've never been treated any differently than being a firefighter," Massey said. "Anywhere I go, it's always you're a firefighter first. It doesn't matter what your gender is."

Massey, who can gear up in under two minutes, responded to more than 100 calls in 2017. Her responsibilities as a second lieutenant include training probationary members and checking the trucks.

"You work extremely hard to prove yourself to a lot of people that you are capable of doing what they've been for years," Massey said. "It takes a lot out of a person but that's how you earn your respect."

She is setting records and earning respect.

"I'm really hoping to be able to work my way up the ladder of everybody and hopefully become the first female chief of the Eastport Fire Department."