Editor’s note: The Herald/Review is shining a light on some of Cochise County’s first responders in law enforcement and firefighting for the next several weeks.

These women are just some of the local first responders working to protect us, a small sample of the unsung heroes who utilize skill and compassion at a moment’s notice to help those in need.

Each participant will highlight, in her own words, experiences from their service careers. This is the fifth installment.

Fry Fire District firefighter/paramedic Xochitl Baca-Cruz fondly recalls as a child hearing stories from her grandfather about his time as a battalion chief with the Tucson Fire Department. She was hooked at a young age listening to his exploits.

Baca-Cruz said, “I remember going to visit him and he would just tell me these stories that he would have. All these, adventures more than stories, of how he would save people or he would go into burning buildings and how it was just dangerous. Of course, what kid doesn’t like danger?”

She joined the Explorer Program through middle school and continued showing an interest in becoming a firefighter. After graduating high school Baca-Cruz attended the Fire Academy at Pima Community College and received her Firefighter 1 & 2 and EMT certifications. She then pursued her medic education.

“I’ve always been interested in health care and have always found it fascinating to fix people when they’re sick or even to just be there for people to help them to get better from whatever situation that they’re in,” Baca-Cruz said.

Baca-Cruz has family in Cochise County. She added to her schooling by taking wildland and hazmat classes. Through networking and staying in touch with local firefighters she was made aware of openings at the Fry Fire District.

“I took the opportunity and put in and it’s been a good experience here,” she said. “Fry Fire has a lot to offer, they’re very progressive in both EMS and firefighting. They are only continuing to get better.”

Baca-Cruz has been in the fire service for almost six years and with a “woo-hoo” an elated Baca-Cruz says she will finish her probationary year as a firefighter/paramedic with the district this month.

Baca-Cruz said, “Being in the fire service, there’s a lot to be grateful for. One of the things I’m really grateful about and like about the fire service is the camaraderie. The connection, the bonds that we have with each other. We live with each other for 48 hours at a time. It’s hard sometimes, don’t get me wrong, but it’s very gratifying. We work well together, we mesh well together. It’s a second family. We go home to our primary family then we come to work and hang out with our second family. Who doesn’t want to do that, it’s a lot of fun.”

She says it is challenging going on a call for an ill person, showing up on scene, and realizing she and her fellow firefighters have no idea what the problem is.

“We bounce ideas off of each other,” Baca-Cruz said. “It challenges us and helps us grow and the learning is non-stop with EMS and the fire service.”

As with most careers, on-the-job stress can be a negative factor for a first responder.

“It can be mentally and physically draining,” Baca-Cruz says. “That’s when we rely on our second family and crew members to help relieve or help unwind and get the stress out.”

Baca-Cruz has a suggestion for anyone interested in a public safety career, whether it be law enforcement or firefighting.

“I advise to never give up,” she says. “Always continue pushing, always continue fighting for the career of your dreams. Continue your education and keep up your physical activity. Keep practicing, practice makes perfect.”