Friday, 20 September 2019 20:35

Bellamy hired as Rockingham's first full-time female firefighter

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Heather Bellamy was recently hired as the Rockingham Fire Department's first full-time female firefighter. Heather Bellamy was recently hired as the Rockingham Fire Department's first full-time female firefighter. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer



 ROCKINGHAM — She’s only been on the job for a week, but Heather Bellamy plans on making a career fighting fires.

The 22-year-old was recently hired as the Rockingham Fire Department’s first full-time female firefighter.

“She interviewed well and we hired her part-time several months ago,” said Chief Harold Isler. “She has a strong will … strong desire to learn. I think she’s going to continue to grow and be an outstanding employee for us.”

Like another recent hire, Noah Stubbs, Bellamy grew up around the fire service.

Her father, Gus Bellamy, was with the Rockingham Fire Department for more than 20 years and retired in April. She also has cousins in Biscoe who are firemen.

“I’m excited,” her father, who is also a certified fire service instructor, said. “But at the same time, it doesn’t surprise me ‘cause as long as I can remember, she’s always gone to classes with me.”

Even at the age of 12, he said, she was unofficially making better grades than some of the students.

Unlike, Stubbs, the fire service curriculum at Richmond Senior High School wasn’t added until after she graduated.

Although she was an apparent natural, being a firefighter wasn’t Bellamy’s first choice.

“I tried college, I didn’t like it,” she said. “I wanted something different. I like working with my hands.”

Bellamy originally wanted to be a band director and a jazz saxophone performer, being a drum major in high school. But after spending a few hours trying to teach a middle-schooler how to play the French horn, “it shot my nerves.”

The fire service was a dream she “had on the back burner” because she didn’t think it was possible.

“I just bit the bullet and said I’d try it,” she said.

Bellamy joined the Northside Volunteer Fire Department at the age of 19 and “wound up falling in love with it.”

Northside provided her with the training and experience for the job, as well as being on the Morven Fire Department in Anson County.

She said the 24-hour shifts aren’t much of a change, since she spends her off days at the Northside station.

“It’s just another day to me,” she said.

In her three years as a volunteer, the worst call she said she’s responded to was an 18-wheeler wreck on U.S. 220 last year.

“I haven’t seen too much, but I know it’s coming,” she said, adding that some people will serve for one year, but quit after their first fatality. “I’m prepared for it.” 

She cites her fire family at Rockingham, Northside, and of course, her father, as being a support system for helping to cope with the tragic events she will encounter.

Bellamy said her father was the first person she ran to after the memorable wreck.

“I’m proud of her, but at the same time, the father in me is kinda nervous,” he said, because he knows how dangerous the job can be and the mental toll it can take.

For his generation, the Imperial Foods fire in Hamlet was most devastating call. For those who came later, he said it was the 2016 bus wreck on the U.S. 74 bypass south of Hamlet, involving a private college football team, where four were killed.

“I just hope any of them up here don’t have to go through anything like that,” he said. “But I always tell her and I tell anybody else, ‘I’m here.’”

As for being the first female firefighter, Bellamy said she’s excited, but is trying to stay humble.

“On the other hand, it’s proving that women have a spot here, too,” she added. “It’s doable for anybody.”

Although she’s the first full-timer, there are several other part-time and volunteer female firefighters across the county including at the Rockingham, Northside and Cordova departments.

Bellamy said she hopes her career serves as an inspiration to other girls.

“I’m hoping some little 8-year-old will see me and say, ‘If she can do it, I can too,” Bellamy said. “Because that’s something that I didn’t have growing up. Being here, it was predominantly male.”

She recalled a Christmas parade a few years ago where a child was shocked to see her older sister, Paige, driving one of Northside’s engines.

“If I can get that kind of reaction, maybe you’ll see a lot more females.”