Madyson Foth is counting the days until March 8.
Something memorable usually happens on her birthday and the year the Peabody-Burns student turns 18 will be no exception.
In just 34 days, she will join Peabody’s 16-member volunteer force as full firefighter after serving more than two years as a cadet.
Her commitment will require a ton of sacrifice, especially for a student council president and cheerleader who plans to go out for track.
But it will put Foth, who has already been accepted into a fire sciences program at Hutchinson Community College, one step farther down a career path influenced by family and hardship.
When Foth was in middle school her sister’s house caught fire and was deemed a total loss.
“I got to see firefighters in action and that made it personal,” she said.
Foth will carry a radio with her at Peabody-Burns high and when a call comes, she will answer it.
It will be a tough gig, Foth admits, but it will mean she can finish her degree at HCC in 1 ½ years.
“I’ll get six months of practice on a real fire department before I go to college,” she said.
As a cadet, Foth has learned about firefighting from the sidelines. Junior firefighters are not allowed to be placed in harm’s way.
But she says she has attended plenty of training and staff meetings that toughened her.
Learning to cope with smoke during an exercise that simulated a burning house was her first real challenge.
“That was my first experience with what is going to be like,” she said. “And with an airpack … how heavy everything is.”
The experience gave Foth confidence, but nothing has come easy. She has responded to accidents that involved classmates.
Her coaches and teachers have supported her through the commitment demanded of a young woman who makes firefighting her first priority
“It all requires a lot of hard work,” she said. “Nothing is going to come easy you still have to work for it.”
But she says she has found friends in a firefighting community that has welcomed her.
“They carried me right in like I’m their little sister,” she said. “I see them as big brothers I can go to. No matter what, I have a family.”