As women who are involved in area fire departments, Dana Cinotto, Diana DeBrine and Annessa Lippincott are proud to be a part of the firehouse brotherhood, help people in emergencies and participate in events like Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation’s 5K in Jefferson City.
Whether it’s on the scene of an accident or in training, these three amazing first responders show courage, determination and care in their jobs every day.
Dana Cinotto’s husband, Chris, comes from a family of first responders and has served as a full-time firefighter in Kansas City and locally, now acting as chief of the Russellville-Lohman Fire Protection District.
Cinotto was always interested in what Chris did on the job and got the opportunity to see it first hand while helping at a severe motor vehicle accident. Knowing she could do more, she joined the Russellville-Lohman Fire Protection District seven and a half years ago. Also serving as a medical responder, Cinotto, the only female firefighter in her district, works as an administrative officer for the department and was promoted to lieutenant in March.
Cinotto has a 21-year-old stepdaughter, 20-year-old daughter, 13-year-old son and 10-year-old twin girls.
HER: What are some of your main duties at the department?
Cinotto: With the administrative officer, you take care and keep up with the reports, personnel files, your day-to-day operations. I’ve been doing that for two years now. Before that I was just a firefighter. As of March they decided to promote me to lieutenant and surprise me during our annual banquet. That was a big surprise. … I asked the guys are you sure, and they said yes. It was an honor.
HER: What was your first call?
Cinotto: It happened to be a fatality accident. I didn’t know it was a fatality. The car I was helping to work with had a family. … They got T-boned in an intersection. … Some of the guys were actually crying. … That’s what got me going with the medical first responders. It is hard to be on the scene and not do anything for anybody. I’m a mom and a woman, I want to go help them. I’m the first person to think there’s a stuffed animal in the truck and go get it to comfort the little kid.
HER: What are some of the memorable moments you have had as a firefighter?
Cinotto: The good ones are the good times you have with the guys. The camaraderie is awesome. We’re also able to work with other departments. It truly is another family. They call it a band of brothers for a reason, even though there are some sisters in there, too. Some of the more memorable moments on the downside is we lost a fellow probationary firefighter not even two years ago. It wasn’t on a call, but it was hard. It brought on some pretty bad PTSD. There are those accidents that are bad, people you know. That is the worst part of the job.
HER: What would you say to encourage someone to become a firefighter?
Cinotto: My husband and I do career day at the school every year. I like to go and be part of that because I am the only female and want to raise awareness to the girls. Just because it’s “a man’s world,” women can do it. It’s important they know they can be a firefighter if they want to.
HER: Have you ever heard of the Stephen Siller Foundation or the Tunnel To Towers 5K before?
Cinotto: Yes, I worked as a medical responder when they worked with Gary Sinise Foundation and the (Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers) foundation to Jefferson City. We worked that concert. That was really cool when they gave Tyler Huffman that smart home. It was really phenomenal.
HER: Why did you participate in the event last year?
Cinotto: When I heard it was coming to Jefferson City, I thought what an honor. To be able to be out there with other firefighters, it is huge. To honor those who died doing their job and doing what they love, what better way to keep it alive.
HER: What was your experience like at the event?
Cinotto: It was very exciting. Two other members of our fire department had also done it with me. We brought our families. It was just phenomenal, even when my feet starting hurting. Some of the other Jefferson City firefighters stopped and made sure I was OK. They didn’t care I was a girl; everyone was supportive. I had to try to be tough. I walk all the time, but not regularly wearing the gear. Diana (DeBrine) gave me her tennis shoes, and I ran to catch up to them and I beat my guys to the finish line. I just needed the right accessory.
HER: What were aspects of the race that moved you?
Cinotto: When I got back, I had a little more time to look at the stakes they had in the ground of the 343 that had died. You see it on TV and hear about it, but … it is a whole different experience when you are there.
HER: In your own words, why is this event important to have here in mid-Missouri?
Cinotto: 9/11 affected the whole world. It affected the United States. I know they have them all over the place, but having it here in Jefferson City is a way for the firefighters to get together. You don’t meet half the other people that are serving in this area. It brought a lot of people out and it is really nice.
Diana DeBrine has been a medical responder for two and a half years with Cole County First Responders and a volunteer firefighter for two years at Cole County Fire Protection District.
Born and raised in Mid-Missouri, DeBrine’s mother is from California and her dad’s side of the family is also from central Missouri. Her younger brother is also a volunteer firefighter with Osage Fire Protection District.
HER: When did you know you wanted to be a first responder, and what inspired you to pursue it as a career?
DeBrine: As far as the medical field, years ago my younger brother and a friend were in an accident. This accident put my brother and friend in the hospital/rehab for months. During my brother’s hospital stay, I would sit in a window at the hospital and watch the helicopter take off or land. I watched those patients be brought in. I saw a lot while in the ICU where my brother was located. A small spark started there but it was years later before it really ignited.
While chatting with some friends who are retired EMTs, they suggested that I look into the pre-hospital setting. They thought it would be something I could handle and would enjoy. By this time both my brother and friend had become firefighters on different departments. I asked them where would be a good place to start and they said a first responders course. I signed up for the one being held by Cole County and during that course found a passion for the field. So much so that last year I decided to continue my education and attended an EMT course with Osage Ambulance District. I am beyond happy to say that I passed my required tests and became a licensed EMT earlier this year.
Now the firefighter part is a bit of a different story. I never wanted to be a firefighter. It was never a dream of mine, but when God wants you to go in a certain direction, He’ll keep placing those signs in front of you. I received a lot encouragement from some of the guys on the Cole County First Responders who were also firefighters. They knew I could be one and do well. I was responding to first responder calls where the fire department was also working and I always ended up working with the firefighters. One of the guys even gave me an application. After a lot of prayer and not being able to ignore what I felt I needed to do, I turned in my application, which ended up being a blessing.
HER: What kind of training is involved in becoming a firefighter?
DeBrine: After turning in my application to the Cole County Fire Protection District, I was interviewed and accepted to start the probationary period. I had to pass a physical agility test, as well as a basic firefighters course and attend other trainings. There is a lot of hard work that goes into being a firefighter, but after about eight months I was promoted to a full firefighter and taken off probation.
HER: What was your first call like?
DeBrine: Emotional. There was a lot of excitement involved as well as nervousness as I was heading to the scene. I was trying to remember my training and go over in my head what I might have to do. My first call was a medical call and the situation of the call left me angry, sad and questioning how some decisions that people make in life can even be thought of and carried out.
HER: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a first responder and what have been some of the biggest rewards?
DeBrine: Some of the biggest challenges are being put in situations where you are now experiencing possibly someone’s worst day of their life and you have to hold your emotions in and do your job. Those situations for me have come from deaths. My heartstrings have been tugged a few times for the loved ones and while you try to be there for them and give them whatever comfort you can, many are not ready for that. … Some of the biggest rewards came from the thank you’s. I’ve been stopped at restaurants just so someone can tell me they appreciate what I do because it is something they can’t and are happy that others will do this job.
HER: What were some of the most memorable moments from participating in the local Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation 5K ?
DeBrine: I would have to say that my most memorable moment was when I gave up my tennis shoes. My friend, Dana, a firefighter with Russellville-Lohman Fire Protection District, had worn her fire boots to run in and almost halfway through began developing blisters on her feet. When I got to see her at the halfway point, she had taken her boots off and was walking in her socks. When she got up to me, I offered her my shoes to continue the race in. Even though my feet are a little bigger she accepted them, gave me her boots, and was able to run most of the rest of the race. I was really happy that I could help her out that way.
HER: Why do you think it is important to recognize first responders like Stephen Siller or others who lost their lives in 9/11, as well as all first responders and members of the military?
DeBrine: The amount of time, dedication, and energy put into being a first responder is very demanding. I have given up a lot of my free time to be a volunteer first responder in both the medical field and with the fire department. There are monthly trainings, meetings, work nights and occasional added events, activities or trainings to attend. Then there are the calls. … As a first responder you have to be willing to stop what you are doing to respond to whatever the call is that was paged out. Sometimes you respond to a scene that becomes unsafe and unfortunate things happen. Before joining the first responding field, I didn’t understand the importance of the messages that were being sent out to the public but now I perceive that significance of it. I don’t expect people to completely recognize what is being put out there but I think it is important that they take a moment to think about the time the person who lost their life has dedicated to their community or country and what they left behind.
Originally from Hannibal, Missouri, Annessa Lippincott’s husband, Joshua, joined the Hannibal Rural Fire Department while they were dating. Later, Joshua joined the South Callaway Fire Protection District and is now the auxiliary captain, a position in which she has served for about a year and a half.
As an auxiliary captain, which is a volunteer position, she brings water and snacks for firefighters, participate in training, takes care of homeowners and helps them contact the American Red Cross and other assistance organizations, as well as let them work through their emotions.
Living in Portland, Missouri, Lippincott also works as a reactor and safety analysis engineer at Callaway Energy Center.
HER: When did you know you wanted to be a first responder, and what inspired you to pursue it as a career?
Lippincott: I knew I wanted to join the auxiliary when Josh went out for a structure fire one night. We had recently had “family training” at the station. Chief Wallendorff had brought in someone to talk to the firefighters and the families about why they train. He had some videos of things that went wrong, and said “we train so that doesn’t happen to us.” My husband leaves in the middle of the night a few days after this, and I just laid in bed and prayed because that’s all I could do. I decided that I would feel a lot better if I was there and knew what was going on, rather than staying at home not knowing when he’d be getting back.
The very next training night, I went with Josh to the station and filled out an application. The board approved it, and I was in. I started going to first responder training so I could be an extra set of hands. In high school, I had worked at the YMCA as a lifeguard, so I had previously been CPR and First Aid certified. Shortly after, the fire chief asked me to be auxiliary captain. A few months ago, I volunteered to be the department’s public Information officer, as well.
HER: What was your first call on duty?
Lippincott: The first call I went on was a structure fire in Portland. It was about half a mile from my house. Josh’s pager went off, and I told him to text me if he needed me. I waited a little bit, and started filling up my cooler to go because I figured he was probably busy and couldn’t text me. I knew we were out of bottled water at the station, so I just filled the cooler up with ice water, grabbed some plastic cups from my kitchen, and I was out the door. When I got there, I filled up some cups and started passing them out to my firefighters. Then I saw the homeowner. I knew the lady whose house was burning down. I walked over to her, gave her a hug, and asked if everyone was OK, and if she wanted some water or to sit in my warm car. It was December and she didn’t have a coat on, so I grabbed her a blanket out of my car. I spent the rest of the call running around, taking care of her and her family, the first responders, and making trips back to my house or the Portland station for things we needed. Our assistant chief is always hungry, so I ran home for some tuna salad, crackers and granola bars. I must have made five trips home that night.
HER: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a first responder, and what have been some of the biggest rewards?
Lippincott: The biggest challenge for me is when I show up on scene and I know the patient or homeowner. However, that’s also when I feel I can make the biggest difference. It would really help me for a friendly face to show up in my hour of need.
My favorite thing to do is dress up as Sparky. The kids love it, the firefighters love it (they’re just big kids), pretty much everyone loves it. I really like making people smile.
HER: What inspired you to participate in the inaugural Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K in Jefferson City last year?
Lippincott: My husband told me about it, and I wanted to do it with him. Then we decided it would be cool to do as a department, so we convinced chief to make it a department event.
HER: What were some of your most memorable moments from participating in the event?
Lippincott: I started off walking with a group of our firefighters and Senator Roy Blunt. I wasn’t in gear, but I did have my cooler full of water, because that’s my job! A little ways in, one of our firefighters called me. She had hurt her back earlier that week and the pack was too heavy on her injury, so she asked if I could take it for her. So I did about two-thirds of it with the cooler and the pack. The really big hill by the old prison was really hard, but the rest wasn’t too bad. I hadn’t done anything like that for an event before, but I’m looking forward to doing it again.
My department won the award for most participation. We intend to keep that title, and chief is having try-outs for the three-man team to finish first so we can take that award home this year, too!
HER: Why do you think it is important to recognize and remember 9/11 first responders and others who lost their lives, as well as all first responders and members with the military?
Lippincott: After 9/11, everyone said “we will never forget.” I keep my promises.
Read more about the second annual Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation 5K Run/Walk in Jefferson City here.