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This girl’s on fire!

Cadet Alex Hansell gears up for fire drills. Hansell is the first woman in Albuquerque Fire Rescue history to be named top cadet of her class. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

In 1979, the Albuquerque Fire Academy had its first female graduate. Now, more than four decades later, Alex Hansell, has been named the top cadet in her academy class – she is the first woman to receive that distinction.

bright spot“I just signed up for the job,” Hansell, a member of the academy’s 95th cadet class, told reporters Wednesday. “Hopefully, I can inspire my team. They inspire me, for sure, and we’ve kept each other going for the last 18 weeks – which was a hard journey.”

The biggest challenge to firefighter training, Hansell said, was the physical aspect of it.

“It was easy to learn the skills, but for me, it came down to ‘can I do this physically?’ ” Hansell said, recalling lunch breaks with her mentors practicing tactics and techniques. “With the right tactic or technique that somebody can share with you, you can overcome a lot more and become more capable.”

Hansell was chosen as Top Cadet for her leadership skills, accountability and mental and physical strength, Capt. William McMullen said.

“I think (Cadet Hansell) will provide some inspiration to younger females seeing that not only can they enter the fire service, but flourish within the fire service,” McMullen said.

Four members of Hansell’s 30-cadet graduating class are women. Within the city of Albuquerque, only 37 of 710 firefighters are women, according to Lt. Tom Ruiz, Albuquerque Fire Rescue’s public information officer.

In 1979, Joanna Sieben became the first woman to graduate from the Albuquerque Fire Academy.