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Albany firefighter of the year leads by example

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Jessica Jackovich

Albany firefighter of the year Jessica Jackovich had considered a career in medicine before a ride-along with her stepdad changed everything.

Jessica Jackovich, 28, made the big move from Alaska to Albany. And she’s not the only one who is glad she did.

Jackovich, Albany’s firefighter of the year, is a leader at Albany Fire Department, according to Chief Shane Wooton.

“I just want to tell you from my perspective how much I appreciate you and how much you do for our fitness committee and the health of our people,” Wooton said while presenting Jackovich with the award during a June 22 City Council meeting. “Jess is a huge asset to our department. I remember the day you thought about coming here from Alaska, and we are so thankful that you made that choice.”

Albany Fire's annual awards are voted on by the entire department. This is one of the reason’s the award means so much to Jackovich.

“It’s an honor. It was unexpected,” she said. “It makes me very humble to think that my peers think of me as firefighter of the year.”

A fulfilling career

Jackovich is still early in her career, but she’s already making an impact. According to Wooton, Jackovich is a leader in the health and fitness part of the department and serves as a great example for her peers.

Jackovich tries to keep her co-workers motivated to exercise every day and maintain their health, she said. This, along with her normal firefighter duties, makes the work fulfilling for Jackovich.

“I enjoy coming to work and every day is a new day. Every day is dynamic,” she said. “Some people call us on their worst days, and I just enjoy getting to help them.”

Jackovich’s firefighting journey started in her native Alaska. She was around 20 years old and considering a career in medicine. A ride-along with her stepdad, who was working at the local station, changed everything: She instantly fell in love with the job.

She started volunteering and eventually was hired with a station in Fairbanks, Alaska. In 2016, a friend with Albany Fire Department encouraged Jackovich to apply for a job here.

Now, she’s becoming a leader in not just Albany but in the county as well.

Inspiring young women

Just last week, Jackovich was at the Linn County Young Women’s Fire Academy in Lebanon training and inspiring the next generation of female firefighters. The program is designed for young women 16 to 19 years old who live in Oregon.

Firefighting being the male-dominated career that it is, encouraging other young women to get into the profession is important to Jackovich.

“I had a very strong female mentor who helped me grow immensely as a female firefighter,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated at a job.”

As a female firefighter, Jackovich is committed to getting other young women involved in the profession. She said she talks to various people in Albany whose daughters might be interested in a similar career path.

In just a short time at AFD, Jackovich said she's already seen growth in terms of a female presence.

“AFD is very diverse and open to inclusion,” she said. “I think there were two females when I started at AFD, and now there’s six.”

Maddie Pfeifer covers public safety for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6091 or Madison.Pfeifer@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @maddiepfeifer_

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