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INDIANAPOLIS — Being a firefighter is a little different during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Gowns, googles, masks and all that stuff. So on top of the fire gear, we now have all this EMS gear that we're learning how to put on," Megan Ridley said.
"And in the firehouse, it's a lot different, too," Nico Pariambada said. "Usually during shift change, you want to talk to the firefighters as you're leaving, you have some comradery there and now we are kind of avoiding talking to each other, so it's just a very different time that everyone is trying to adjust to."
However, Ridley and Pariambada, who are both relatively new to the force, feel it is their true calling.
"For me, it was just staying determined, staying dedicated to what I wanted to do with my life," Pariambada said.
Ridley signed up for the challenge because she looks up to her brother.
"A couple of years ago, my brother got on and it's just been that goal that I've always wanted," she said. "Since I saw him, and now I've been ready to do it."
Many share the dream of joining Indy's bravest. Due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions, the Indianapolis Fire Department extended the deadline to May 15 to apply for the next class of recruits, which begins in 2021. The process takes about 10 months to complete and roughly 100 recruits will make the cut.
Starting salary is $51,000 for the first year, and firefighters make more than $71,000 by their third year.
"You need to make sure you know as much as you can about the fire service, about the Indianapolis department, just keeping yourself knowledgeable, always looking to learn," Ridley said.
Both Pariambada and Ridley said persistence is the most important thing for people who want to become a firefighter.
"It was actually my second time through the process before I got hired, so going through it the first time, I was able to get a feel for how it was ran. The second time, I prepared a little better," Pariambada said.
There is an application, a written standardized test, an oral interview, a physical test and a mental health assessment. A step-by-step path leading the way to being a lifesaver.
"There is nothing else in life that someone else can offer me to do for a living that I would rather do than be an Indianapolis firefighter," Pariambada said.