What do you do when you have your own blog and you happen to know one of the most inspiring women on the planet? You fucking interview her.
When we were little kids we belonged to Timber Trails Swim Club. We were The Killer Whales. Back then, the lifeguards were THE coolest people in the world. We spent every single day at that pool during our childhood summers. Every single day we pulled into that parking lot, our mom was always coming in hot, praying to see Tracy’s doorless Jeep Wrangler. When it was confirmed our most prized and beloved lifeguard was on duty, everyone in the locker room could hear our Arsenio Hall chants from our mom’s minivan. We busted open that sliding door and ran our little asses inside to make sure she knew The Massarella’s were here to make her laugh and make us the happiest little kids on earth. Best memories ever. Our relationship with Tracy didn’t stay in the water. Nosiree Bob. She was too cool to be a summer fling. Tracy became The Massarella babysitter extraordinaire. What is so cool about this? Tracy babysat us, we babysat her kids and now her kids babysit our kids.
We have watched Tracy go from lifeguard to cheerleader. Cheerleader Coach to wife. Wife to mother. Mother to EMT. EMT to firefighter. And now she is at the top of her professional game in a new position. This friend of ours has worked harder than anyone we know to get to the top of her industry. Why is this so profound? Because Tracy works in a male dominated industry. Tracy is a bad ass. She is Chief of Fire for the Broadview Fire Department. Prepare to be inspired.
Becoming a fire chief isn’t an easy thing to do. Before you set eyes on this career, how long were you a firewoman and/or paramedic? I became a paramedic in 2000, I was actually in labor for the exam. I had Keeley a couple hours later at the same hospital. I feared my water breaking in front of a hundred EMT’s. I worked in Melrose Park as a contract paramedic while I was testing departments (physical and written) to become a firefighter. I was hired by Broadview in July, 2002.
Speaking of, which do you prefer, firewoman or firefighter? Fireman. I keep my balls in my purse. Seriously, it doesn’t matter.
How did you originally get into firefighting? It was always a dream, but I didn’t think I was capable physically. I worked at the family tavern prior to starting this career, but I had a ton of encouragement and support from guys who worked at local departments. They got me into shape, mentally and physically.
What is the most demanding part of your job as a fire chief, as well as, what is the most demanding about being a firefighter? The hours. I am seriously always on call. If we get a fire or an EMS call with a serious nature in surrounding towns as well as my own, I go. I also just had back surgery. The wear and tear over the years can get to you.
As an outsider, I would imagine this field is predominantly men – if not, please correct me. But if my assumption is correct – would you mind telling our readers about any challenging moments, whether personal or professional, you may have encountered throughout your career or along the way? Honestly, I was an emotional gal. I have learned to hold in my anger or sadness until I get home. I have to. Nobody wants to see a chief in tears. We are there to be strong and supportive. I always saved the tears for the locker room or after I sent my kids off to school.
What advice would you give any young women or ladies looking to pursue a career that is male dominated? You have to have thick skin. Ignore the bullshit and do your job. The day you cry poor me is the day you invite criticism. That may sound harsh but it is a reality. Walk away if you don’t like what the men are saying. If you do speak up, be sure you can handle the challenge, because men love to challenge us.
What drives you most in life and in your career? My amazing kids. Casey, my 20 year old son is leaving for the Air Force in 2 months. Tricia, my 19 year old daughter is in school to be a police officer. Even with all of the recent shootings, she is more determined. Then there is my Keeley. She shouldn’t be here today. I did CPR on her twice and we said goodbye at 6 weeks. At 16 she is my biggest challenge. She is a killer cheerleader and full of Netflix. This summer is her last jobless summer. You show kids you are strong mentally and physically and they will follow you. I am so proud of all of them.
Who or was your biggest inspiration? My mom, my sister Katie and my brother John. My mom is beautiful and classy, inside and out. She is self-made and can grab people’s attention with her smile. I don’t know where my life would be without her encouragement. My sister Katie doesn’t take anyone’s crap. She lives her life on her terms. My brother recently changed his life and thus success followed. They all inspire me to be exactly who I am.
Who is your biggest supporter? My family and friends. I am drowning in support! They don’t miss anything. Prior to my dad passing he wrote me a letter that my sister gave to me when I became Deputy Chief. He wrote, “I’m so happy you finally got that white shirt. I knew you would and I am very proud. Sorry I’m not here to see it.” For clarification, Officers and Chiefs wear white.
Knowing the dangers of your job, if your child told you they wanted to follow in your footsteps, would you encourage them to do so? Why or why not? Yes! Go for it! Do what makes you happy. Life is full of risks. Be a risk taker!
What is the most courageous moment you have seen on the job from a colleague? At my part time job, 7 years ago, a colleague had cancer. We all loved him. Each pay cycle some of us would work an 8 hour shift and donate to his paycheck. It wasn’t easy financially for any of us, but he needed it and we valued our friendship.
Any safety tips that you may find many people don’t realize are common causes of fires or household injuries? Teach your kids early on about safety hazards related to fire. Lighters and candles fascinate kids and can spread fast. Have an exit plan and check your detectors regularly.
Growing up, you were our resident lifeguard, which also indicates a theme here. You have always loved helping people and keeping an eye on safety. Any summertime pool safety tips for parents out there? Teach your kids to swim!!! And please, keep an eye on them. Put your phone away at the pool, it’s too damn distracting.
What is your favorite memory from life guarding at Timber Trails swim club? My daughter Tricia is a lifeguard, and she has a little posse that follows her…I immediately thought of all you kids. Especially Nicky, (your little brother) showing up with his goggles on and cowboy boots. And also sitting at the edge of my chair, waiting for me to go on break. Then plopping you all up on the cement divider in the guard shack during adult break. That was an awesome place with so many great memories. AM I RIGHT?
Who was a bigger pain in the ass, the McGuires or the Massarellas? Love you all the same…
What is your favorite part of the job? The answer years ago as a firefighter would have been…breaking shit and throwing up because I busted my ass in a killer fire. Today, as a Chief, it’s a little different. I like going home each day and knowing, because I was there, things were better. I can make changes to better our department and I have amazing people to back me up.
What is your daily mantra or note to self? I think the man of my dreams got hit by a bus or something…kidding. Be you. My friends have called me TFK for years. Francis is not my middle name. I say fuck a lot. I’m sure it bothers people, but I am not here to impress anyone. I have an amazing fucking life, on my terms.
Coke or Pepsi? Diet ginger ale and Jameson. Cats or Dogs? I hate cats!!! Lake or ocean? Any body of water, even a bath. City or suburbs? I wish I would have lived in the city. It is my biggest regret. Country music or classic rock? Country music. It drives my sister nuts. I also love retro 80’s rap. Donald or Hillary? Yuck. Beer or Vino? All of the above, but mostly Jameson. Christmas or Halloween? Christmas, but I believe in taking decorations down the night of Christmas. My kids hate this. Timber Trails soft pretzel with or without salt/cheese? No salt and lots of cheese. Those pizzas were hellish and I blame the large container of Swedish fish for my childhood weight gain.
Love it. Live it. Share it.