It was her mother who instilled the power of compassion in Tracy Moore. That power lit within her a passion for truth and integrity that has informed her life, both personally and professionally as she climbed the ranks of her firefighting career to captain.

It’s what powered her to remain true to herself. And it’s what encouraged her to listen to and raise the voices of her fellow female firefighters facing gaslighting, bullying and mental and emotional abuse from their male colleagues.  She incorporated those experiences—along with her own—into her fictional novel, “The Fire She Fights.”

Now retired from firefighting and having obtained her Master’s in Public Affairs, Tracy works as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines. We were able to catch up with her to learn more about her life, her book and her passions.

When did you first understand the importance of being authentic and compassionate?

I was a welfare kid with an extraordinary mom. She was raising four kids on her own—I have three brothers. When I look back at my childhood, sometimes I feel bad for my mom because I was the only girl in the family, but I wasn't a typical girl. I didn't wear dresses, and I didn't like bows in my hair. Now that I'm older, I am so thankful that my mom just let me be me. I'm sure she would have loved to dress me up in frilly things, but she didn't pressure me to act or dress any other way than who I was. I think that was really one of my first impressions of just being able to be who I am, to actually have the courage to be myself. My mom is also a very kind person. She made sure that my brothers and I were kind to each other.

The first time I recognized the importance of being kind was when I was a first grader and was out on the playground with some of the kindergarteners. There was this little boy standing against the wall and other kids would go over and push him or knock his hat off, and he'd just pick his hat up and put it back on. As I was watching, I remember getting a real sense of ‘This is wrong.’ So I went over and stood in front of him. When the other kids came over to push him, I told them, ‘You have to push me down first, if you're going to push him down.’ And they walked away. I was expecting a push or two, but they just walked away. It was then I realized what little effort it sometimes can take to make a difference.

As I grew older, I consciously or unconsciously sought out other role models who modeled that same sense of being kind and being yourself. That, I think, led me to playing sports, it led to me going to college, and it led to me feeling confident to be able to leave my little New England town and move to Minneapolis. And that led me, in a nutshell, to becoming a firefighter and then a captain, getting my Master’s degree at The Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and then writing, “The Fire She Fights.”


What led you to becoming a firefighter?

I worked at the park board and there was, again, another woman in my life, my supervisor, who said to me one day, ‘Hey, Minneapolis is hiring firefighters. You should go apply.’ I wasn’t that kid who said, ‘When I grow up, I wanted to be a firefighter,” so I asked, “Why would you suggest that?’ and she said, ‘Well, you're so brave.’ And, of course, who doesn't feel good when someone says that to them?

So, I filled out the application on a whim. And when I got to the fitness test at the convention center, there were other women there climbing ladders. They were running up steps with hoses on their shoulders. They were awesome. They looked heroic, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a firefighter.

What were some of your struggles and challenges as a firefighter?

I would say my biggest struggle at the fire department was being undervalued as a woman. In our society, compassion and kindness are identified as feminine characteristics, and strength and bravery are identified as masculine characteristics. The truth is about 90% of our calls as firefighters are to respond to medical calls, and a lot of the qualities that you need on those calls are to be kind and compassionate. We can serve the community better if we realize that courage, compassion and strength are all just human qualities with the same value.

Why did you decide to write a novel about four female firefighters rather than a memoir of your own experiences?

Originally, I was going to do individual stories of the women I worked with to try to ensure our stories weren't lost. I was a little worried that the first women firefighters in Minneapolis would disappear into history without anyone recording their stories. So that was my intention at first. I didn't know if I would publish or if I would just give a book of their stories to everyone I interviewed.

The women I interviewed talked about how it felt to fall through the floor in a fire. Some women cried recalling the last words of a patient they lost. There were stories of sexism and racism in the firehouse. And there were a lot of stories of the cruel hazing that went over the line to abuse. The hazing and abuse were confusing, especially when the same people who are our coworkers—who we have to count on when our lives are at stake—are also doing the abuse and harassment and hazing. It’s relentless and cruel at times.

I wanted to give the readers that same connection I had while interviewing the firefighters. I felt a novel would provide that—it would allow the reader to go through the whole experience with one or more of my characters. They could see the struggles and at times the failures, but they would also see our successes, our friendships and our lives at home.

In a novel, I could also tell the truth without putting the actual women I interviewed in danger and exposing who they were. The novel is fiction, but the stories are real.

How do you think women can help other women be brave, be more authentic, and stand up for what they see is right?

I do think that being an extraordinary woman is seen as dangerous. Don't let the bullies knock our hats off. Don't let them push us in a corner. Don't let people dismiss or discount us because we're women. We're strong; we're courageous. It takes courage to be kind and that's who we are naturally. There's freedom and power in being kind.

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