Tempe woman celebrates trailblazing past as a firefighter

Carol Crisler knows firsthand what it feels like to stand face-to-face with a wall of fire. She had been working as a reporter in Eastern Oregon when she heard the cities’ fire departments needed some extra help. Crisler applied and ended up serving as a volunteer firefighter for 15 years in the Oregon cities of Ontario and Newport. Though Crisler has long since retired and moved to Tempe to be closer to her two daughters, she said she still feels an urge to serve when she hears sirens cut through the air.

“My heart starts pumping when I hear sirens and I look for smoke,” said Crisler, who has never worked with Tempe Fire Medical Rescue. “I wish I could see them in action.”

A woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, she said she often went into attics or crawled into cars to stabilize people due to her short stature; Crisler could fit more easily in tighter places than the men she worked with. But, she says, she was never treated any differently by other firefighters or their wives on the basis of her gender and considers the field a nondiscriminatory one. “I just didn’t feel treated any differently,” said Crisler. “Just one of the ‘guys,’ one of the ‘folks.’ I would drive to the address of a fire or accident and we were all a big team. Other than being shorter, you couldn’t tell me from anyone else.” She now lives at Friendship Village in Tempe, located at 2645 E Southern Avenue, near one daughter in Scottsdale and another in Gold Canyon. One son still lives in Eugene, Oregon. While she takes advantage of the pool, gym and everything else the senior living community has to offer, Crisler thinks about her time as a volunteer often and wants to encourage more women to follow her lead and fight fires. “You can do anything you set your mind to if you want it badly enough,” said Crisler. “If you’re willing to get down and dirty you can always go home and take a shower.”

Lindsay Walker News Editor | Tempe @AzNewsmedia