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In Her Corner: Firefighter leading the 'drive' in Cape Coral

Posted: 12:33 PM, May 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-22 21:13:04Z

CAPE CORAL, Fla-- At the drop of a hat, Laurel Cornelius may have to gear up and get ready to help someone in Cape Coral.

As the Engine Operator for Cape Coral Fire Department, it's her job to drive the fire engine to all of the calls.

"This is our big toolbox and I'm responsible for everything in it," explained Cornelius.

Cornelius said she loves her current position with the department, but she first fell in love with the medical side of the job.

"Actually when I went through the academy I realized how much I liked the fire aspect of it," said Cornelius. "So the two together-- medical field, adrenaline junkie-- kind of all made perfect sense."

Cornelius expressed she is competitive by nature which helped her enjoy the academy even more. However, there was one point that almost knocked her out of the program.

"Probably the second week of the academy," she said. "They are really trying to see what you are made of. And I thought why am I doing this willingly, and then I thought I do know why I'm doing this."

There was always one woman who was in her corner to give an extra push of encouragement when Cornelius needed it.
"My mom has been very influential. She has always pushed me and said if you think you can do it then do it."

Fast forward a little, Cornelius is a mom of three young boys. She admitted it can be a little crazy at her house.

"I'm totally outnumbered by men. It's complete chaos in our house all the time."

Some people might think being a mom to three boys and a woman in the firehouse would be tough. However, Cornelius said the crew has always been her family and she's never felt any different.

"I really felt like part of the crew," she said. "Our academy was one of the first to have multiple women. It is one big family and of course, there are some squabbles, there's fun, there's laughter, there's everything. But to go on a call and get out there and have a connection makes it easy and wonderful."

Cornelius said her career comes with some difficult mental and physical aspects, but everyone at the firehouse helps each other out when it's needed.

She's also proud to see more women pursue similar careers to her own. She's even noticed women in other counties driving the fire engine just like her.