Serving the Community — Karen Johnson, Summerville Fire Department

  • Friday, February 7, 2014

A.M. Sheehan/Journal Scene Karen Johnson

Engineer Karen Johnson, 28, of Ravenel, grew up in Ravenel and West Ashley and has been with Summerville Fire Department since 2003.

Firefighting is something she “always wanted to do.” She had friends who were captains in Charleston Fire Department and she has the attitude of “don’t tell me I can’t do it ‘cause I’m a girl!”

Even so, she says you have to prove yourself as a woman in a traditionally man’s job. “You have to prove you can pull your weight.”

Apparently she pulls her weight quite nicely as she has worked her way up in rank from firefighter to engineer.

She is trained in firefighter 1 and 2 including pump ops 1 and 2.

It’s not easy, being a mom and a firefighter. The shift construction has her working 24 hours with 48 off.

Her worst experience is shared with many – The Charleston 9.

“Real close friends died in that fire … I knew a lot of them.”

Her best experience, she says, is helping people. “It makes you feel good.”

Her professional goal is to become a captain. She would be the first female captain. “I’m only two classes away.”

But, she adds, “those two classes are very, very hard and I have to pass an exam.”

Ultimately she would like to go as high in rank as she can … she’s not sure how high that might be. But then, she never thought she would be able to drive a fire truck.

When off duty, she is celebrating her engagement to her fiancé Shane. She is mom to Caden, 5, and Jorja, 2.

Off work, “I can just be mom.”

Caden, she says, just started school.

She enjoys hunting, fishing and rifle target shooting. They just bought property in Ravenel where they plan to build. “It’s a headache already,” she laughs. “We [she and fiancé] can’t even agree on the plans!”

She likes the beach and enjoys cooking – especially at the firehouse – camping, and to going to exhibits and such with her kids…especially the dinosaurs.

She likes to take them fishing, too.

Her life goal is to retire and become a nurse. “I can retire at 43,” she says, noting that is plenty of time for another whole career. She plans to finish her nursing schooling prior to that so she can go directly into nursing.

The hardest part of her job “was being seven and a half months pregnant!”

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