May 15, 2007
By TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writer
Years before Hartford firefighters became first responders in 2001, Carol L. Stiles' name came over the radio when there was a serious accident, a murder or a suicide attempt.
"I used to hear her name - get Stiles - every time there was a body jumper," Assistant Fire Chief Michael A. Parker Sr. said. "I started asking, `Who is this?'"
Responding to those kinds of emergencies helped Stiles earn a reputation as a dependable firefighter and a certified paramedic who wasn't afraid to answer the tough calls. For 20 years, she has put out fires, saved lives and trained other firefighters in the city.
On Monday, the Jacksonville, Fla., native, who grew up in Winsted and Enfield and now lives in Windsor, earned the historic distinction of being the first female deputy chief in the 218-year history of the fire department.
Her promotion ceremony took place Monday at the Old State House, the site of a major fire after the Revolutionary War that resulted in the commissioning of the first fire department by Hartford officials. Lt. Anthony Taylor was the master of ceremony. Mayor Eddie A. Perez, Councilman Calixto Torres, and Parker and Assistant Fire Chief Anthony R. Milner were among colleagues and friends who offered Stiles congratulations after Fire Chief Charles A. Teale Sr. spoke about the significance of her promotion.
Stiles is one of 11 female firefighters in the 305-member department.
Teale said that Stiles has exhibited a "degree of excellence under the most trying circumstances. I'm hoping that her promotion will serve as an incentive to other young women" who might want to become firefighters in Hartford, he said.
Over time, it was easy for the firefighters in the male-dominated profession to forget that Stiles was a woman elevating through the ranks from firefighter to lieutenant and captain, and now deputy chief, Parker said.
"As long as the person can do the job, that is never an issue," he said. "She's so deserving. Her promotion is huge."
A Hartford firefighter since March 1987, Stiles said she has waited a long time for her promotion. She endured the pranks and trying to hide out in her car when her colleagues were playing around, but realized that getting "watered down" by hoses was a part of the job and she kept pursuing her dream. She thanked her friends in the department and her family for their support.
Stiles' persistence earned her the title, Lt. Catherine Cieri said, adding that firefighting is a difficult job for everyone.
Stiles' husband Gregory, a retired firefighter at Bradley International Airport, said his wife always has her mind on the job. That was evident to him when his wife took her firefighting textbooks with her on their honeymoon in 1996, and again four years ago when they went on a cruise.
"You deal with the moments," Stiles said of the pressure that comes with the job. "I like being in the action."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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