Joy Graves has earned her place in the driver’s seat as the Waycross Fire Department’s first ever female driver engineer.
By MYRA THRIFT, Staff Writer
The Waycross Fire Department made history recently as it announced the department’s first ever female driver (engineer), Joy Graves.
A native of North Carolina, Graves chose to live in Waycross because her mother told her it was a good place to raise a family. As she was growing up in the Carolinas, her father took her to the fire department on Saturday and she learned about the trucks but knew nothing about fire science. She just wanted to be on that truck.
Fast forward a few years and Graves’ dream has come true. She has been promoted to driver for her crew at the fire department. She has been with the fire department for about five years, beginning as a rookie firefighter.
She is the mother of three, ages 23, 21 and 15 and after they got older, she decided it was time to do some good. She served in the U.S. Army reserves and went through initial firefighter training, then took classes and learned about the fire service. She said the other firefighters at the department have also been instrumental in teaching her the tricks of the trade and have helped her to become proficient in the job.
On a typical day, Graves arrives at work and checks out the equipment, checks the engine to make sure all of the equipment is accounted for and that the engine pumps are working. They do house chores, target safety classes to keep refreshed and go through a lot of training at the local training center. A firefighter must receive 219 hours of training every year to keep their certification up to date.
The firefighting crews go out into the community to teach children and adults about fire safety and how to prevent fires. They spend time at local events such as ball games, parades and festivals.
Her fellow firefighters are proud of her promotion and say they know she can do the job without question.
Graves is a typical woman who cares for her family, enjoys life and wants to make a difference in the world. Her beauty is overshadowed only by the light that shines from within. But don’t let her femininity fool you — she’s spot on when the task it at hand.
Engineer Josh Godwin said that he puts “as much trust in her as any of the men. She is quite capable of doing all she needs to do as well as any of the other men we have.”
“There is no difference except that I am a girl,” Graves said. Godwin pointed out that once the firefighters are in their gear, they can’t tell who is male or female. They are firefighters first, last and always.
“If I need help, they are there to help. And if they need help, I am there to help them,” said Graves. “My job is to get the crew there safely and make sure they have all they need.”
When on a fire scene, Graves is in charge of the engine and its operations.
“We each pull our own weight,” said Graves.