Junction City’s only Latina firefighter is breaking barriers in order to serve

By Daniela Leon
WIBW – August 8, 2017


26 year-old Yeriela Bell is the happiest when she’s sliding into action.

“This is definitely what I want to end up doing for the rest of my life,” said Bell.

She says a passion for helping others led her to join an Alaskan fire department for three years. When her father was stationed at Fort Riley in June, she decided to make the move, too. Bell says Junction City is a lot different from her previous home but her desire to make a difference is unchanged.

“I can help people on a daily basis, giving back to my community whether it’s the community I am from or a different one,” said Bell. “It’s also being part of something that’s bigger than myself.”

Bell is the only Latina firefighter in Junction City and has experience in being an EMT; she says it’s a role she couldn’t live without.
“I guess, I’m off the charts of what your “typical” Hispanic women is supposed to be but I enjoy it and that’s what matters,” said Bell.
Chief Terry Johnson said her determination is what landed her the job.

“The interview process; she blew them away and we had a unanimous decision that she be hired so what we have is hopefully [a] very good firefighter that will stay here for a while,” said Johnson.

The job can take a toll on the team. The Junction City Fire Department answers 4,500 calls a year, serving as both a fire department and EMS for all of Geary County. Their firefighters also work 24 hour shifts at a time, making it hard to hold a family life.

“When you call 911, you don’t expect an average person, you expect the best every time and we have to provide that no matter what,” said Johnson. “So these are the things a firefighter deals with on a daily basis.”

This also includes calls with the most difficult outcomes, like one Bell handled last summer in Alaska.

“Dispatch called us and said there had been a possible drowning, they had a boat and found the kid and we got him out and did CPR, the whole nine yards… but he didn’t make it,” said Bell. “I just continue doing the job I do and I feel really sad for the parents it was hard for me.”

Still, she says it’s a job she will never trade.

“If it’s something you want to do then go for it,” said Bell. “Don’t let anyone stop you. Don’t let the fact that it’s a male dominant job deflect you from doing what you want to do. Go for it.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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