Makenna Hughes’s face lights up when she talks about becoming a real firefighter.
Life can be quite serendipitous sometimes.
She attended the recent Farmington Fire Department’s open house where her aspirations were confirmed after meeting her local firefighters whom she considers hometown heroes.
Hughes learned about the profession at the booths set up in and outside the fire station. She learned how to put on the heavy firefighter gear and about the “jaws of life” that rescue people trapped inside cars at crashes.
The sixth-grader wrote a long, detailed school report on what training, skills and gear are needed to become a firefighter.
She considers herself lucky because she won a sweet ride home from school in a Farmington fire truck after she entered her name in an open house drawing.
Farmington Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Allbee and firefighter Dan Stromberger were happy to pick her up from Dodge Middle School to escort her home in style.
“I did not think I was going to win, but when I was at basketball practice my friend told me and I freaked out,” Hughes said.
Her ride inside the fire truck was made even sweeter because her best friends Reagan Redmann, Lauren Kiecker and Cora Strickler were her guests.
“It was super cool because I got to honk the horn and the guy taught us all about inside the fire truck and about a fire,” Hughes said, adding she was thrilled to sit in the front seat.
Hughes, 11, is the daughter of Kristi and Scott Hughes of Farmington. She is the younger sister to two twin siblings, a brother and sister.
This ride is one step closer to her dream of becoming a firefighter.
When asked why she wants to become a firefighter, Hughes responds quickly and seriously, “I want to save lives.”
Her language arts class report further confirmed her aspirations.
“I have put together different articles on firefighting on how to put on your fire gear and another was on what happens if you run out of air in a fire,” she said. “I want to be a firefighter.”
This Halloween she dressed as a firefighter and wore the red hat she was given at the open house. On her birthday, she celebrated with friends and family by blowing out candles on her firefighter cake and her friends graciously gave her firefighter-related presents.
She recalls witnessing a fire down the street from her house.
“It was before I wanted to be a firefighter, and it was really cool because all the firefighters were trying to put out the fire with the fire hoses,” she said.
Hughes says she is not scared of fires but she will need to overcome some fear of heights.
Her favorite TV show is “Chicago Fire,” but she is a big fan of all the public safety shows.
Today her close friends call her “Firefi,” a short nickname she is proud to carry.
Farmington Fire Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Price said the department is currently trying to establish a program for young adults.
In years past, the department offered an explorers program for ages 14 to 17 who want to become firefighters and train at the station once a month.
“We are looking at a program that is similar to that and it is in the early stages,” Price said.
Hughes’s grandma lives near Fire Station No. 2.
“Sometimes she will take the long route around to see if the fire doors are open to see if she can maybe loiter,” her mom said laughing.
Price told Hughes she is always welcome to come inside the firehouse anytime if the doors are open and the fire trucks are not moving.
“We would love to show you around,” he said.
Hughes wants to learn more because she is determined to follow her dreams of becoming a firefighter. Her grandmother hopes it is in Farmington and not Chicago.
“I think she is really brave and is passionate about things, and when she says she is going to do things, she pretty much goes after it,” said her mother Kristi Hughes.
The public is gearing up for the Farmington Fire Department’s 69th annual Turkey Bingo this Saturday. The event has raised more than $25,000 to purchase all kinds of fire equipment, including portable radios, automatic external defibrillators, CPR practice dummies and emergency alerting pagers.
“It is our major fundraiser and it is the only one we do,” Price said.
The event attracts up to 1,000 community members who look for family fun with bingo, raffle prizes and silent auction with the chance to win a turkey. The fundraiser gives away about 100 turkeys each year.
Doors open at 5 p.m. for dinner and the bingo commences at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at Farmington Fire House No. 1 with parking across the street at Boeckman Middle School.
There will be $100 bingo coveralls at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. with a $200 coverall win at 10 p.m.
“I hope everyone comes out and it will be cool outside, but it will be nice and warm in there,” Fire Chief Justin Elvestad said.
Active military and veterans receive a free turkey sandwich.