Made in the 956: Harlingen's first female firefighter continues to inspire young Valley girls
Harlingen firefighter Bree Rios has been on the job for five years now and continues to inspire girls all across the Valley.
Rios is the city of Harlingen’s first female firefighter.
"Whenever I first came in, I didn't come in thinking, ‘Oh I want to be the first,’” Rios said. “It was just something I wanted to do and it happened."
It's a line of work that runs in the family.
"My dad also works for the fire department. He's put in 20-plus years,” Rios said.” "It was just something I grew up around and it was always something that intrigued me, and I loved being around. I always loved going to the station when I was younger and stuff like that. When you're younger, you don't see the dangers that come with the job, you just see your dad taking off in the fire engine with lights and sirens and you think, ‘Ok that's cool. I want to do that.’"
Now five years into it, it's a job Rios says she wouldn't change for anything.
"There's so many things I love about this job,” Rios said. “I think the comradery, one, of the department. Holidays, special occasion days, on weekends and stuff like that where you normally be spending with your family, we're spending it with our fire family. I love the unknown of coming in to see like, ‘Oh, what is today going to bring for us?’”
But the unknown can come with a lot of pressure.
“The gear— whether you're a male or a female, you're talking about adding an additional 50, if you're soaking wet, 60 to 70 extra pounds of weight on top of you,” Rios said. “You're wearing a mask that's limiting your breathing. With all of that put together, it's physically and mentally hard to stay focused."
"We don't only go to fires,” Rios continued. “We go to emergency medical calls, we go to car accidents. There's a lot of other things we do, so sometimes we come in and see some pretty traumatizing things."
Another added pressure was being the first female.
"I would be lying if I said it was a breeze,” Rios said. “There were a lot of things that my feminist radar would kind of kick in and feel like, ‘Man is this because I'm a woman? Are they treating me this way because I'm a woman? But it's made me a better person. I love the job and I love where I'm at right now."
Now, Rios hopes she and her fellow female firefighters have made it easier for future girls to jump into action.
"So now we have three. I'm a driver and we have two female firefighters,” Rios said. “We're hoping to get more to follow in our steps and come in. We'd love to have more women."
"If I had any words of encouragement, I would just say go. If you want something bad enough and you love it, you just got to go for it and do it,” Rios said. “If it was easy, everybody would do it. To be the best, you got to separate from the rest."
Bree Rios: Made in the 956.