Katelyn Douglas went through the Palm Coast Fire Department intern program while she was still a high-schooler.
When Katelyn Douglas stepped into Palm Coast Fire Chief Jerry Forte’s office about two years ago, she was asked, “You’re a girl, what makes you think you’re going to be a firefighter?”
“I say that simply because my daughter is a lieutenant with the Daytona Beach Fire Department, and I know the trials and tribulations she went through,” Forte said.
The Palm Coast Fire Department has seven female firefighters — out of 57 career firefighters and 15 volunteers — and Douglas is now one of them.
“What she said to me was, ‘I know I can do this,’” Forte said. “And I just went, ‘Yes, you do; come on, we’re going to do this.’”
Two years later, Douglas, now 20, has completed the internship program and was officially hired with the department in October 2018. She’s also currently in school at Daytona State College for paramedic credentials.
“I could never sit behind a computer or be 9 to 5,” Douglas said. “I’ve always been, since I was a kid, on the job site with dad and really close to dad, and just one of the boys growing up. That’s just kind of been my thing.”
A Matanzas High School graduate, Douglas was born and raised in Palm Coast, often helping out at Douglas Construction or spending time with her brother and two male cousins when she wasn’t booked at marching band, cheerleading or lacrosse.
Douglas started the intern program with PCFD when she was still a student, often coming in for training at stations around the city right after school, or even doing overnight shifts. Each month, she clocked at least 24 hours a month, the minimum to one day get hired from the intern program.
“Most of the lieutenants would train with me at night and really take the extra step to help me,” she said.
While the physical demands of being a firefighter have been a challenge, Douglas said, she likes getting “down and dirty.”
“She has got quite a skill set, and she didn’t need a whole lot of refining, but she did need people that were going to motivate her and push her to a little bit further of where she was,” Forte said. “But when you start to look at what firefighter Douglas does now, we can talk about her being a true leader — that she takes on the responsibility and gets things done all by herself without having her be prodded and coaxed into doing things.”
Bob Douglas, Katelyn’s father, has seen that responsibility and work ethic in her for years.
“I could not possibly put into words how proud of her I am,” he said. “She’s just amazing, in my mind; I mean, obviously I’m a little biased when I say that, but I could not be happier about the whole thing.”
Katelyn Douglas said her time around construction turned out to be an asset to her firefighter career.
“I know more about how it’s built, and I know how it could come down,” she said.
While becoming a firefighter wasn’t a specific dream of hers as a kid, Katelyn Douglas knew she wanted to work hands-on and help people more than anything.
“I originally was going to be a music major,” she said. “I played flute for eight years, and I decided to pick up the bagpipes; and the only bagpiping band in tour were the retired Police and Fire Pipes and Drums band, so they ended up teaching me how to play. [Former Fire Chief Mike] Beadle was a part of that, and he ended up telling me about the volunteer program and everything.”
The rest is history.