Meet the Firefighter: Elizabeth deBree

MOORE HAVEN — Elizabeth deBree says it was a “given” that she’d choose to become a first responder and, at “the ripe old age of 20,” she says, now her career has begun.

Actually, it started a couple of years ago on her 18th birthday when she followed directly in her father’s footsteps and joined the DeSoto City Volunteer Fire Department, then two months later became a member of the volunteer force.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of GCPS
Firefighter/EMT Elizabeth deBree

“I was born and raised in Highlands County. My dad was a volunteer fire chief for DeSoto City V.F.D. when I was growing up, and my mother was a volunteer firefighter and currently an EMT for Highlands, so it was a given that I would choose this field,” she said.

Elizabeth’s first “real job” was at Publix when she was a teenager, then she worked at a gun range called Spray and Pray in Sebring last year.

At the same time, she was undergoing training at South Florida State College in Avon Park to earn her firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT) certifications, which she received in 2019.

Her inspiration, Firefighter/EMT deBree said, was “100 percent my family. My family makes up the majority of our volunteer roster in Highlands (eight out of 10)! I grew up playing on the very fire truck I respond out of when I’m not working here in Glades (County),” she said. “Hearing their stories growing up and seeing total strangers come up to my parents and thanking them while we were out and about really inspired me.”

Elizabeth really doesn’t have any certain favorite part about firefighting as a career — except that, “as corny as it sounds, I just genuinely love helping people.”

Her personal takeaway from the job “honestly is just the pride I feel knowing I’m doing exactly what I feel like I was meant to do.”

She does have an especially memorable moment from her role, even as a greenhorn.

“It’s a small experience that I’ll keep with me forever. We went to a school to talk to second graders about fire safety, and afterwards a teacher came up to me with all the girls from her class and asked for a group picture because ‘You are proof that girls can kick butt and do whatever we want.’ Ever since that day, I’ve loved doing public outreach events and public education. And being that I’m only 20, I can relate to those younger just a few years behind me,” Miss deBree said.

Her words of advice to young people who might follow a path into a public safety career are:
“Do it! If you are hesitant to jump headfirst, then volunteer! There are some amazing people here with Glades so don’t hesitate! Volunteering is what got me here! And no matter what, do not let anyone deter you away from your dreams!”

This concludes the Lake Okeechobee News’s profiles of Glades County’s six new full-time firefighters.

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