By Alyssa Schnugg
Nearly five years ago, Rochelle Harwood left the restaurant industry to pursue a new career as a firefighter. While she no longer serves drinks and food, she continues to serve the Oxford community every time she dons her fire gear and hops onto a fire truck.
Currently, she is the only female firefighter in the OFD, and her dedication and hard work have caught the attention of her fellow firefighters.
Harwood, 36, an EMT as well as a firefighter, was recently named the 2020 OFD Firefighter of the Year.
Chief Joey Gardner said Harwood was nominated for the award by the other firefighters for her great attitude and willingness to help others.
“She never gives up,” Gardner said of Harwood. “She is the first female firefighter to be named Firefighter of the Year.”
Harwood, an Oxford native, decided she needed a different career after having a child and needing a more manageable schedule as a single parent.
“I was soul searching to figure out what I wanted to do,” she said. “I knew I enjoyed helping people and being challenged, and I like being physically fit. So I was thinking of what I could do that incorporated all those aspects.”
A firefighter friend suggested that Harwood consider a career in firefighting. She decided to give it a shot and has since fallen in love with her new career.
Grateful and honored is what Harwood said she felt after receiving the award from her peers. She said she just works hard and appreciates that others have noticed her efforts.
“I work hard and keep going, and I try to stay positive and encouraging,” she said.
Being the only female in the department has given Harwood a whole lot of “big brothers.”
“It’s fun,” she said, laughing. “It’s great to have that type of brother-sisterhood relationship. We laugh a lot, but we know when it’s time to work, it’s time to work. But it’s been absolutely wonderful working with these guys.”