Five years ago, Julie Webb achieved her childhood dream – the first part, at least – when she joined the ranks of Kilgore Fire Department.
Today, the KFD Driver/Engineer has finished Phase II, completing almost 1,100 hours of additional training, knocking out the necessary exams and signing on with the Kilgore Fire Marshal’s office as an arson investigator.
“When I got into this career... it was a lifelong dream of mine I didn’t think was possible: ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a firefighter.”
While still young, that desire evolved into a driving curiosity about delving into the sources of fires and examining them after-the-fact.
Six years back, Webb initially got on the roster of Sabine Volunteer Fire Department (now SFD) then, after about a year, completed the necessary training to sign on at KFD. She’d soon achieved the driver/engineer rank and, about two years ago, she expressed her interest in the investigative side of the fire service.
After that, “It actually happened really fast,” she added. “Everything just kinda fell into place.”
For the mother of three, one of the largest steps toward the new skill set was completing the daytime basic police academy, 750-plus hours – Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with occasional evenings).
Fortunately, “I had wonderful support with KFD,” continuing to work shifts. Meanwhile, “Overton Police Department sponsored me for it when they carried my commission.”
Two more certifications, as an inspector/plans examiner and investigator, took 196 and 150 hours, respectively. Each involved coursework, necessary state skills completion and state exams.
Worth it, Webb says.
For one, there’s a distinction between a fire investigator and an arson investigator.
“In order to investigate all fires, I’d have to be a police officer, so I jumped into it,” she said. “Once there’s any evidence of a crime being committed, that’s when you need to be a police officer.
“This allows me to continue to be involved in the whole process.”
Attached to Kilgore Fire Marshal’s Brandon Bigos’ office as an arson investigator, Webb will continue her work as a KFD driver/engineer, taking on additional duties when necessary.
Bigos presented Webb with her official shield for the fire marshal’s office during the Kilgore City Council’s July 23 meeting.
“I don’t get a lot of firefighters who are interested in that because it’s a long process,” Bigos praised. “It’s an extensive process to get you there,” working through the police academy as well as all the specialized training that accompanies the arson investigator distinction.
“I do believe, on top of that, Julie is going to be our first female arson investigator here in the City of Kilgore. I’m very proud of that as well.”