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As a dispatcher, Krysten Richard’s first attempt at the firefighter physical test in August 2017 did not go as planned.
She failed to complete the course and actually passed out. She was later teased by colleagues. Having never been big on gym training before, she got serious.
“I hired a personal trainer and started going to the gym six days a week,” she said. “I failed [the test] month after month, but finally passed it on July 23, 2018.”
Richard also didn’t let the written test stand in her way. As she puts it, she studied her “butt off” and made flashcards to quiz herself. Then came the fire academy.
“That was the longest five months of my life,” she said. “I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. I didn’t quit. I got so much stronger.”
Shortly after passing the exams, the 2021 Nappie Award winner for Best Firefighter became the first Black woman to hold that position in Mobile in 25 years.
“There was a lot of pressure,” she said. “I felt like I had to prove myself more than others.”
As a single mother of three girls, Richard wanted to step up as a role model for Black women and girls. Becoming a firefighter was one way to accomplish that, she said.
“There aren’t a lot of role models in the African American community,” Richard said. “I can only control what my babies see so much. This was a good way to be a role model.”
Richard studied meteorology at Mississippi State University, but became an insurance adjuster in Dallas and finished her degree later. She took a job as a dispatcher for the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department (MFRD) in the meantime.
“I wanted a job where I could be here with my children,” she said. “It was the best decision for me.”
Richard said she enjoys working for MFRD because as a dispatcher and then as a firefighter, it’s a good feeling to help people.
“When you call 911, it’s usually the worst day of your life,” she said. “It makes you feel good to save someone’s life.”
As for being a firefighter, Richard calls it an “adrenaline rush.” The people she works with at the Museum Drive station make it a great place to be employed, she said.
“The main thing that will make or break a shift is the crew you’re assigned to and my crew is the best,” she said.
The 31-year-old is a Mobile native from the Down the Bay community. She attended LeFlore High School.
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