Fire chiefs Susan Labrie and Michael Gorski have more in common than just their home state of Massachusetts. The two are brother and sister.
Labrie heads up volunteer fire crews in Goshen, Mass., while Gorski is at the helm of his volunteer Hampden, Mass. department.
Labrie made a name for herself in 2006 when she became Massachusetts’ first female fire chief.
“The previous chief retired after 53 years of service,” she says. “I said ‘well, I think I can do some good'”
She said her gender has never been an issue, and she’s even helped encourage more women to join the department.
“One joined specifically because [the department] had a female chief,” she says. “The other didn’t want to do it before, but when I became chief, she joined.”
She said she is proud of her accomplishments as chief, which include helping her department get three Assistance to Firefighter Grants.
Gorski has logged a few more years in the fire service than his sister.
“She’s got seniority on me even though she’s my little sister,” he says.
The two say they often help and support each other in their very challenging jobs.
“She’s been really helpful in terms of getting me to think of important things,” Gorski says. “She’s really good at grant writing. I hope to be half as successful as she is at getting grants.”
Gorski was made chief of his department in February, after serving 23 years as a full member. He says he’s getting used to the job, and learning as he goes.
“It’s really interesting in that there are certain items that I hadn’t been involved with. Talking with other department heads and creating some new opportunities to work with other departments has been interesting.”
Because the two departments are so far away, the two have not yet had the chance to work together. But that doesn’t mean they don’t turn to each other for support.
“Being my older brother, he’s always been very supportive — no rivalries, we got along well. I was the tag-along sister — he taught me everything, it was great.”
Gorski said they were the only two members of their family in the fire service, but their jobs help them practice the lessons learned from their parents.
“My mom and dad instilled in me and all my siblings that we should try to help other people. This is my way of doing that.”
Reprinted with Permission, Firehouse.com