Between running her own business in Middleton and raising two children, it may seem surprising that Deneen Carmichael finds time to commit to her other obligation, volunteer firefighting.
After attending physical fitness training sessions at Middleton fire’s station, Carmichael became curious about the volunteer firefighters she met and how they found the courage to face dangerous situations. Not being one to leave a question unanswered, Carmichael promptly joined the department.
“Who are the people behind the fire department? That intrigued me, and the more I learned about it, the more it became less of do I want to do this, and more like I have to do this,” Carmichael said.
The first step was training, and not just exercise. A state certified firefighter must attend weekly classes for over a year. There is extensive learning to be done, both in the classroom and out in the field.
“Training was intense, very educational and thorough,” Carmichael said. “It was more cerebral than I anticipated.”
Carmichael had to witness controlled burns in both physical structures and wilderness settings, learn to use bulky and potentially hazardous heavy equipment and train to handle many dangerous chemical and biological hazards.
After years of training, Carmichael is now a Wisconsin certified level two firefighter, a hazmat technician and an engine driver. She is currently working on her certification as a ladder truck operator as well.
With that experience, Carmichael has found that firefighters do far more than fight fires. She has responded to car accidents, hazardous material spills, rescues of all kinds and even retrieved baby ducks from a storm drain.
“You experience every possible imaginable situation or scenario on fire calls, things that you would never imagine,” Carmichael said.
Taking on the responsibility of protecting her community takes a toll. Emergencies can arise at any time, day or night. Oftentimes Carmichael has to return to her business and family after witnessing tragic events that an average person never has to endure.
Despite the missed meals, sleep and time with family, her commitment to serving the community never wavers.
“I feel like I was born to do this, I’m exactly where I need to be,” Carmichael said.