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Carrying the torch – a legacy of service in Lethbridge

For Dorothy Graham, a recent recruit at Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services (LFES), firefighting runs in the blood. Her great-great-grandfather was the Lethbridge Fire Chief from 1911 to 1935 and left a legacy that continues to inspire her. 

Dorothy’s journey to LFES began unexpectedly during the summer of 2020. She was working at Cuppers Coffee after recently graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science. One ordinary day took a dramatic turn when a regular customer collapsed in the shop. 

“I initially thought he was stretching,” Dorothy recalls, “But when he stopped responding, I knew it was serious.”

Realizing the gravity of the situation, Dorothy acted quickly. She called for an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), dialed 911 and followed the dispatcher’s instructions to perform CPR. Her recent CPR training proved crucial in the moment. The quick intervention played a significant role in keeping the customer alive until LFES arrived and restored his pulse. 

The following day, the customer’s son visited the coffee shop to share that his father was stable and recovering in a Calgary hospital. Weeks later, the customer himself returned, grateful for the life-saving intervention. 

This experience was a turning point for Dorothy. While she was passionate about environmental science, the impact of saving a life led her to explore a career in emergency services. Within a few months, she enrolled in the Medical First Responder program at Lethbridge College and later in the Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP) program at Medicine Hat College. 

“I wanted to see if this was truly my calling,” Dorothy explains, “And the more I learned, the more certain I became.”

Before joining LFES, Dorothy worked with Alberta Health Services as a Primary Care Paramedic (PCP). This experience allowed her to put her skills into practice while she was still in school to become an ACP. 
Following the completion of her ACP program, Dorothy knew serving her hometown emergency services department would be a natural fit. 

“I like the recreation here. I like all the friends and people I know. I like the proximity to the mountains,” says Dorothy. “Lethbridge has everything without being a ‘big city.’”

Dorothy’s connection to LFES is deeply personal. Her great-great-grandfather’s tenure as Fire Chief is a source of pride. William Hardy was not only the Fire Chief but also served as the Police Chief during his tenure. Her great-grandmother Peggy was even born in the fire hall during his service, adding to the family’s rich history with the department. 

“Knowing my family’s legacy motivates me,” says Dorothy. “It’s an honour to follow in my great-great grandfather’s footsteps.”

Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services spring recruit class. Back row (left to right): Hunter Sylvestre, Steven Oleksyn, Justin Coulter. Front row: Andrew Shurtz, Dorothy Graham, Luke Edel, Serena Wallace.


Dorothy is one of seven recruits set to complete training with LFES in July 2024. Recruits join the department as paramedics, either PCP or ACP, and are trained to be firefighters. 

Interestingly, LFES became an integrated service provider of fire suppression and ambulance service in 1912 under the leadership of Dorothy’s great-great-grandfather. The integrated service continues to offer a robust and timely response to emergencies in our community. 

Training at LFES has been both challenging and rewarding for Dorothy. She speaks highly of the camaraderie among her fellow recruits and the program's comprehensive nature. 

Sean Larkin, the lead Fire Training Officer for the spring 2024 recruit class noted a remarkable transformation among the recruits. “Seeing them evolve from individuals into a unified team, who are there for each other at every turn, has been truly impressive.”

Larkin emphasizes the critical role of teamwork in firefighting. “Everything we do is teamwork. Every part of our job involves relying on someone else doing their job, or them relying on us to do our part. Everyone needs to perform their role well. And if they don’t, the team fails. Everyone fails.”

“We subject ourselves to rigorous training because our lives, and the lives of those we serve, depend on it,” Larkin added, assuring that “Lethbridge is in capable hands with this batch of recruits. They are exceptionally well-prepared.”  

Reflecting on the training with LFES, Dorothy shared her personal challenges and growth. “To constantly push beyond my comfort zone was initially daunting. It’s a challenge to train yourself to embrace and overcome that fear, but it’s a crucial part of our readiness.”

Joining LFES has been a fulfilling experience for Dorothy. She values the community’s support, appreciation and respect for first responders. Born and raised in Lethbridge, she loves the city’s blend of amenities, natural beauty and close-knit community. 

“I’m grateful to serve in a community that respects and supports us,” Dorothy shares. “We’re fortunate to work in a place that keeps us safe and treats us well.”

For those considering a career in emergency services, Dorothy advises curiosity and persistence. She highlights the importance of physical and mental preparation and seeking advice from experienced professionals working in the field. 

Dorothy’s story is a testament to the impact of pivotal moments and the power of community support. Her dedication, compassion and resilience continue her family’s legacy of service, making a meaningful contribution to LFES and the community of Lethbridge. 

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