When the big rig known as Tower 1 rolls out of the Karns Fire Department Station 2 onto Hardin Valley Road these days, you might just do a double take when you see the driver. She is Capt. Chassity Pollard – one of the three shift captains in the department.
This 39-year-old single parent of a 12-year-old daughter joined the department in 2009 as a volunteer and in 2014 was given the opportunity to become a paid, full-time firefighter. She has worked out of both the Karns and Hardin Valley stations. In October 2017, she was promoted to captain by Chief Daron Long.
“She earned it. She’s a professional in everything she does and she is thoughtful and smart in forming her decisions as a first responder and as a captain. She is very disciplined and has a very strong work ethic,” he said. “She’s tough but she’s also very compassionate and she’s like that with the people she works with and the community we serve. She’s the real deal as a professional.”
Tower 1 is 50-feet long and cost the department right at $1 million. Its bucket rises to 75-feet. Pollard has no trouble handling it, Long said. “She drove big military trucks in the Army and she’s used to it.” Her driving assignment on Tower 1 is temporary. She’s usually riding shotgun in one of the pumper trucks.
Pollard is a native of Massillon, Ohio, where her father was a volunteer firefighter. She remembers riding in the fire truck with him and watching it all.
After high school she joined the Army Reserves in 1998 in a maintenance company and was deployed to Qatar for 11 months as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Desert Storm. Before her deployment, she became an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) with a volunteer department and then went through fire school in Ohio.
As a captain, she is responsible for four firefighters at both Stations 1 and 2 during her 24-hour shift. “Sometimes we have volunteers who show up, so that number can vary. I have various administrative responsibilities and I have to make sure my crew is doing their job. We work and train well together,” she said.
“I never thought that being a firefighter would be my job, my career, but it is. It just sort of happened. I enjoy being the one there to help people when they need it or the intensity of working a house fire,” she said. “We’re all kinda adrenalin junkies in this job.”
One day the thought struck her that if she was injured and could not handle the rigors of firefighting, she had no back-up plan. “That’s when I went back to school. I’ve got a little girl to support. I love learning and last May I got my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Purdue University Global,” she said.
Capt. Pollard is the only female firefighter in the Karns department. Does she recommend this work to other women? “Yes, but it is hard work and you get no breaks. When you come in at first there’s some negative stuff about being a woman, but once you prove yourself you earn everyone’s respect.”
And what does daughter Zora think about Mom’s job? “It’s pretty cool,” she tells her Mom.
(This is the third of a series called Our Town Heroes, a look at emergency service providers.)