Mass. city council backs woman's effort to take firefighter exam

Melanie Figueroa, who is one year over the maximum age limit to take the test, could be the Haverhill Fire Department's first female firefighter


Mike LaBella
The Eagle-Tribune

HAVERHILL, Mass. — Melanie Figueroa put her dream of becoming a firefighter on hold to raise her children, but now she's hoping to get back on track and take the Civil Service exam this October.

The one thing standing in her way of taking the test is her age.

"I think it's wonderful, and I look forward to seeing you on the fire department staff eventually sooner rather than later," City Council President Tim Jordan told Melanie Figueroa at the Aug. 9 council meeting. (Photo/Haverhill Fire Department)

At 33, Figueroa is one year over the maximum age limit for taking the state firefighter exam.

So in hopes of making her dream come true, she asked the City Council for help.

At its Aug. 9 meeting, the council voted 8-0—member Shaun Toohey was absent—to submit a home rule petition to the state, which if approved by the legislature, would allow Figueroa to take the test.

Councilor Melinda Barrett said it's not unusual for the council to file home rule petitions in support of residents looking to take police and firefighter Civil Service exams but are over the maximum age limit.

"We do these quite often," Barrett said.

According to the City Council office, the council filed four petitions in 2020 on behalf of residents looking to take the firefighter exam.

In 2021, the council filed one for the firefighter exam and one for the police exam. So far this year, the council filed one for Melanie Figueroa while paperwork is in process for a female resident who hopes to become a police officer.

Melanie Figueroa's twin sister, Milady Figueroa, is a Haverhill police officer so public service seems to run in their blood.

In a letter to the council, Melanie Figueroa said she recently graduated from the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Call/Volunteer Recruit Firefighting Training Program and received her state Fire I & II National certifications. She currently serves as one of nine "call" firefighters for the city.

"I truly believe if I was given the opportunity to join the Haverhill Fire Department my skills, strong work ethic and the commitment I have accumulated throughout the years would be an asset in keeping the city of Haverhill safe," she said in her letter.

Figueroa also said she's wanted to become a firefighter since she was a teenager but had to put her dreams on hold when she became a single mother at a young age.

"I had to choose from providing for my children over chasing my dream," she said. "Being a pharmacy technician has taught me different aspects of safety in our community. Now that my children are older I can focus on achieving my dream of becoming a member of the Haverhill Fire Department."

If things work out as Melanie Figueroa hopes they will, she could become Haverhill's first female firefighter.

Wearing a Haverhill Fire T-shirt, Melanie Figueroa stood before the council at its Aug. 9 meeting and was met with praise for her desire to serve the city.

"I think it's wonderful, and I look forward to seeing you on the fire department staff eventually sooner rather than later," City Council President Tim Jordan said.

Councilor Melinda Barrett also expressed enthusiasm for Figueroa's desire to become a Haverhill firefighter, as did the other council members.

"I know your sister is a mighty force on the police department ... so we'll get another mighty force on the fire department," Barrett said. "I think you'll be a great first female firefighter."

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