MISSOULA – Among the interesting emergency responders we’ve enjoyed profiling in our “Salute the Badge” reports in 2018 was Missoula firefighter Emily Garlough.
Emily has a knack for heights, whether it’s working as an arborist, or becoming one of the best women in the Northwest in the Seattle Stairclimb.
“I started at the Missoula Fire Department about a year ago. I just became a confirmed firefighter and prior to that I’ve been a tree climber for about seven years and before that, I was a wildland firefighter for the LoloHot Shots,” Garlough said.
She’s one of four women working as Missoula firefighters — and embracing the very active lifestyle of her colleagues.
“Everybody’s got their niche. So the stair climbing is something that the department is really excited about,” Garlough said.
“It’s open to anybody, whether you want to try and go and be real competitive or just go and have fun with it and take your time. I mean, there’s people that take an hour and a half to get to the top,” she added.
The “top” is the 76-stores of the Columbia Center in Seattle where Missoula firefighters like Andy Drobeckand Ben Brunsvold have dominated for several years.
But in her first year, Emily had impressive placing herself, finishing 10th among women from all over the region, packing the same turnout gear as the men.
“Yep, it’s just like going into a structure fire here in Missoula. We wear our full gear, our bunkers. You’ve got the mask on, so that’s a little bit claustrophobic for some people,” Garlogh said.
“And you’re on a timed bottle. So as you’re going up you’re breathing your bottle down and you just want to make sure you don’t run out of air,” she added.
“You get so excited and you just give it your all. And when I got to the top I couldn’t even open my eyes,” Garlough said.
“There’s people right there at the finish line that kind of pick you up and help you get your mask and your helmet off. And it’s everything you have just to stay upright. It’s a very, very difficult event.”
“Oh, you know I was pretty excited. I didn’t really go into with a real competitive attitude, but wanted to do the best that I could do for me. That’s just the cherry on top,” Garlough said when asked what went through he mind when she found out that she finished at #10.
For Emily, stair climbing is just another challenge in a very active life — whether it’s mountain biking, hiking, or even paragliding off the slopes of Mount Sentinel.
A Missoula life, helping to save Missoula lives — and a calling that other young women can aspire to.
“The biggest thing about it is we just to get to interact with the community in such a positive way and help people out on their very worst day,” Garlough said. “We’re there to lighten things up a little bit and hopefully make a bad situation a little bit better.’
“Come to the department. Reach out to people. Everybody’s really open and welcoming. Just get under somebody’s wing and stay motivated to keep moving and follow what you love. You can make anything happen that you want,” Garlough concluded.
Emily has run her own business as an arborist, climbing trees for the past five years in her off time. And here’s the twist, she spent time this year teaching the veteran stairclimber Brunsvold how to do that!