In 2017, journalist Meghan Foley wrote a series of articles entitled “Sounding the Alarm,” that examined how emergency medical services in the Monadnock Region suffered from personnel and budget shortages.
In 2018, Firefighter/EMT Meghan Foley began responding to the alarm for one of the communities she had highlighted in her series.
As a reporter for nearly ten years for The Keene Sentinel, Meghan reported on many fires and traffic accidents, but often thought she would like to do more.
“I wanted to be in it and to experience it and help out, but I didn’t have the tools to do that,” she said.
After conversations with Swanzey’s fire chief and after producing the “Sounding the Alarm” series, she joined the Swanzey Fire Department as a call firefighter — a part-time firefighter who is paid each time they respond to a fire or emergency call.
“When I completed that series, that is what solidified my feeling of ‘I can help with this outside of just writing about it,’” Meghan said.
The department enrolled her in an EMT class on her first day, then, after being part of budget-cutting layoffs at The Sentinel, she began working on firefighter certifications and a two-year program in Fire Science at Lakes Region Community College (LRCC) in Laconia.
With help from a Charitable Foundation scholarship, Meghan is entering her second year of classes in Laconia toward her goal of becoming a full-time firefighter and EMT.
“The scholarship is huge,” Meghan said. “I was still paying off loans from my journalism degree. I knew I needed some form of scholarship. It was such a huge relief.”
Her firefighting studies have meant two180-mile roundtrips a week from Swanzey to LRCC, which offers the only Fire Science degree program in New Hampshire. At the same time, she was driving two 40-mile roundtrips a week last fall to firefighter certification classes in Vermont.
Meghan is all-in on her new career. She works as a part-time firefighter/EMT in Swanzey and as an EMT in neighboring Fitzwilliam. She works another couple of days a week as the Swanzey department’s administrative assistant and grant writer — and serves as president of the Swanzey Firefighters Association, which raises funds to support firefighters and their families in times of need; to help the department purchase equipment; and to support the social, professional and emotional growth of its members.
Meghan also completed a leadership course with the National Fire Academy and a swiftwater rescue class with the New Hampshire Fire Academy and is training to drive and operate firefighting vehicles.
“This is probably one of the harder things I have done in my life and one of the larger challenges I have faced,” Meghan said of her career change journey.
In addition to her EMT certification, Meghan has passed her Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certifications that cover a wide range of firefighting skills and procedures. She looks forward to completing her Fire Sciences courses next spring and a required firefighter physical fitness test.
Through hours of driving to and from classes and trainings, Meghan has had plenty of time to reflect on beginning a new, physically and emotionally challenging career in her 30s.
“I’ve learned how strong I am as a person, that there is always room to grow,” she said. “You’re always adapting and always evolving, no matter what stage of your life you are in.”