It was only a matter of time before Havre de Grace High School junior Stephanie Gallion became Harford County's Miss Fire Prevention.
Her older sister previously held the title, her brother is a former Little Fire Chief and her immediate family has been involved with the Level Volunteer Fire Company for decades. Stephanie, 16, is just the newest member of the Gallions to make her mark in Harford's close-knit firefighting family.
The daughter of former Level fire chief Nolan Gallion Jr., Stephanie said as a kid, she would often be at the fire station when she wasn't at the family's beef cattle farm. She heard the fire calls and saw the photos of families in need of help after their homes were damaged by fires.
"I realized how damaging fire is and how much you can lose to a fire," she explained, a fact that the rest of the Gallions knew as well.
In addition to her father, Stephanie's mother has also been part of the fire service, as well as her grandfather, uncle, aunts, brother and sister, who is also the Fire Prevention contest coordinator. "I got into it because it's family," she said.
At first, however, the teenager, who also plays softball and loves country and pop music, was wary of getting involved.
"Then I went on a few calls and realized what we [the fire service] can do to try to help," she said.
When she first told her family that she wanted to be part of the fire service and fire prevention program, Stephanie said "they were kind of timid, but they knew it was something I wanted to do." Naturally, the whole family is proud of her for following in their footsteps.
As Miss Fire Prevention, and previously Junior Miss Fire Prevention and Maryland State Junior Miss Fire Prevention, Stephanie teaches children — and some adults — about what to do in case of a fire and how to prevent one from breaking out.
"A lot of people don't know these fire prevention tips," she explained. Stephanie also hopes that in educating people on fire safety she can save lives of families, as well as the firefighters whose duty it is to help them.
Currently, Stephanie and her best friend and Miss Fire Prevention runner-up Katie Simone are in the planning stages of a mission to reach out to even more children. The two hope to go to daycare centers and elementary schools to hold talks and assemblies on the importance of fire prevention.
"Hopefully that will inspire them to go home and teach their parents that new knowledge," she said. Stephanie stressed that just having that education and spreading it to others can possibly save someone's life. "Any education helps anyone."
Stephanie is also a probationary EMS member, planning to take classes next year through a program at her high school that will teach her skills in being a firefighter and EMT.
Despite the seriousness of her duties as Miss Fire Prevention, Stephanie describes the position as "a lot of fun," as she attends banquets, fairs and gets to work with children.
Even though she isn't entirely sure what her goals are post high school (she mentioned looking into criminal justice and forensics), Stephanie said there's "no doubt" she plans on staying with the fire company for the long haul.
She has made friends through the fire company, as well as her boyfriend, who is a firefighter, and describes the Level community as "a family," one that will "get up at two in the morning to help someone else."
"No matter what our opinions are," she continue, "we put it aside to work as a team. We work as one."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun