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Austyn Brown: South Whatcom Fire Authority Rookie of the Year

CDN's weekly community profile

South Whatcom Fire Authority Rookie of the Year Austyn Brown smiles  Wednesday
South Whatcom Fire Authority Rookie of the Year Austyn Brown smiles Wednesday
By Isaac Stone Simonelli Enterprise/Investigations Reporter

Austyn Brown (she/her)

Age: 24

City: Bellingham

Lived here for: 24 years

Originally from: Bellingham

Notable: Rookie of the Year for the South Whatcom Fire Authority, advocate for women in firefighting, Bellingham born.

What made you want to get involved with the fire service?
I got my EMT cert while I was going to college. Short of it is — [I] graduated and then immediately hopped over and started fire academy. Because, originally, I was like: I want to be an EMT, but in order to be an EMT, I have to be a firefighter. OK, I guess I’ll be a firefighter. And then I went through academy and fell in love with it.

I kind of assumed it was going to be like a bunch of gruff, kind of big dudes. And there are some gruff people, there are some big dudes, but it was way more welcoming and team-focused than I expected … I fell in love with it and knew it’s what I wanted to do.

What do you find most challenging about the work?
I knew that there would be calls that involve mental health, and I knew that could be challenging. I knew that we would see people who aren’t alive anymore, and that would be hard.

Walking into a burning building isn’t easy.

But some of the things that you expect to be the hardest end up not being as challenging as you expect. What I’ve found to be the most challenging are the things I didn’t prepare for.

How did you overcome this challenge?
The biggest thing I’ve done to deal with the challenges here is I’ve taken a way bigger focus on my mental health and creating a positive support system — having a more serious internal monologue of how I see myself.

What is the Rookie of the Year Award and why did you win?
Rookie of the Year is for the newer members, kind of congratulating them on doing a good job … I don’t know why, specifically, I won it. I think something that was said in the speech when I was given the award is having a positive attitude, bringing in good vibes. That’s probably not exactly what chief said, but … I worked my butt off every single second that I could this last year, both on and off shift — and picked up as many shifts as I could.

What advice do you have for anyone interested in a career as an emergency responder?
I would say to anyone who’s interested in being an emergency responder, do it! It’s the coolest job in the entire world. It can be really hard sometimes.

We have a lot of ideas of what a firefighter looks like, or what an emergency responder looks like. When I was first getting ready to go into this job, I remember thinking: I don’t know if I’m gonna fit in, I don’t know if this is going to be right. But I just did it and was accepted with open arms.

“Faces in the Crowd” is published online and in print Fridays. Have a suggestion for a “Faces in the Crowd” subject? Email us at

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