It was during the course of helping to care for the victim that Carrie went into labor.
“Doing what I did to help kind of pushed me into labor,” Carrie said, laughing as she told the story.
James and indeed all three of Carrie’s children, including her daughters, Cory Jay, 18, and Jaycie, 15, would grow up around the Fire Department and their mother’s work as a volunteer firefighter.
“I always remember being there for her Monday night meetings,” her son, James, reflected.
Carrie, who would go on to become a certified emergency medical technician and certified cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructor, remembers how she would take her young son with her when she taught classes. In fact, one evening Sergio was laying on the living room floor, relaxing with their 18-month old son playing nearby. He crawled over to his dad, got up on his chest, and started doing the chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation he had watched Carrie teach to a class the previous evening.
She speaks with pride as she talks of how her son made his decision to become a firefighter. For most of his life he had talked of becoming a California Fish and Game warden, but it was after a trip to New York in 2009 — during which he stayed with a firefighter attached to one of the firehouses that suffered severe losses on September 11th — that he decided to commit himself to becoming a firefighter.
Carrie also speaks of pride about a Fire Department that means so much to its small community — one where an emergency siren that sounds out citywide is a signal the volunteer department is needed.
It means a great deal to her that any revenue the Fire Department generates does not go into paychecks since they are all volunteers, but rather goes back into the community for the Fire Department’s Christmas giveaway to schools and the needy, and to the department’s Explorer program that is helping young people discover a career in firefighting.
Then, there are the stories she can tell — some with happy endings, some not so happy — during her 25 year with the department.
She remembers with anger responding to a fatal traffic accident where a family’s small car plowed into a truck, killing everyone in the small car, including a baby who had been removed from the car seat and kept in the mother’s lap to make room for luggage in the back seat.
The car seat had remained in place through the accident, leaving Carrie to speculate the infant could have survived if kept in the car seat.
“It was a senseless death,” she said. “I had nightmares from that call for a long time.”
Nightmares, she said, are a part of the job. Responding to any call involving a child where the outcome is tragic leaves her with memories she would rather not hold onto but are impossible to forget.
But then there are the good days.
She can remember a number of times where she has had the opportunity to help deliver babies, and those are memories she happily holds onto.
Then there was a time — only once — where she feared for herself. It was while responding to an apartment fire and she was the lead into the apartment with the fire hose. She recalled that the apartment was filled with black smoke, making it impossible to see, but they knew the fire was in a back bedroom and they had to cut through that smoke, get to the bedroom door, open it and do battle with the blaze.
She didn’t know what would happen when she opened that bedroom door.
What scared her was thinking about her three children and the thought of not being there for them should something happen to her.
“That was the only time I was scared for myself,” she said, adding in the end, she and her fellow firefighters doused the flames and no on was hurt. “I was so proud of my fellow firefighters that day,” she added.
Chief Sergio Cruz said when it comes to fighting fires and especially responding to medical aid calls, having Carrie there is a major benefit.
“She is a go-getter,” Sergio said.
Carrie said she plans to continue to be there to serve the Westmorland community for some time to come.
“You have a chief who has been here 35 years, an assistant chief who has been here 35 years, I’ve been here 25 years — and we just keep sticking around and we do it because if it were your mom and dad, someone needs to be there to respond. I would hate for that siren to ring and there be nobody to show up.”