When there’s an overnight emergency in her district, lieutenant firefighter and EMT Liza Babington doesn’t have to go far before springing into action. When she became a volunteer firefighter for the Boone County Fire Department in Columbia, Mo., in 2010, Lt. Babington also became a full-time resident at the fire station. In exchange for taking calls and responding to emergencies at night, she gets to live at the fire station rent-free.
As a resident, Lt. Babington responds to more calls than a typical firefighter in her district might. Car accidents, stranded cats in trees and medical emergencies are all commonplace in her mostly rural district.
“It’s important to remember that, no matter how big or small, every call is an emergency to someone,” she said. “Our job is to make sure everyone is OK and do what we can to help them.”
At the scene of a fire, Lt. Babington takes on any necessary task, including assessing the situation, creating a plan of action, pumping the truck or fighting the fire. “I do like to play to my strengths when I can,” she said. “I’m really good with ropes, and I’m a great problem-solver. I’m small, so I can enter easily into small spaces, and I’m good with kids, especially little girls, because they can relate to me.”
Two years ago, her dedication to the community earned her the Matthew Smith Memorial Excellence Award, an honor given to a firefighter in the district who best exemplifies the high ideals, dedication and commitment that are so vital to the profession. Winning was such a surprise to Lt. Babington that she had to be tricked into attending the awards ceremony.
“I’m not a big awards person,” she said. “I believe all that truly matters is that I give my all and do the best job that I can. But it’s always nice to feel like the work I’m doing is what I should be doing.”
Being burned out by a previous career is part of what interested her in becoming a firefighter. “I was training horses professionally and decided I needed a change,” she said.
In addition to signing on as a volunteer firefighter, Lt. Babington also changed her day job. She’s now the manager of an outdoor retail store, where she gets to share her love of rock climbing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding with customers and fellow staff.
Her new endeavors have even brought her closer to her former passion. “After a couple of years off, I’ve been riding again,” she said. “I try to ride every day. Horses are definitely back in my life. I don’t know what role they’ll play going forward, but I know they’ll always be a part of it.”
She’s presently considering a move back home to St. Louis—about two hours from Columbia—to be closer to her boyfriend, Michael, and her family.
“My mom encouraged me to get involved with DAR, and it’s something we get to do together,” said Lt. Babington, a member of St. Louis-Jefferson DAR Chapter, St. Louis, Mo. She regularly pages at the Missouri State Conference and Continental Congress. The organization’s support of veterans is a draw for Lt. Babington, whose father is a Vietnam War Veteran and boyfriend was in the Marine Corps.
“I’m proud of their service, and I’m proud of the way DAR honors veterans,” she said. “Firefighting and the military are quite different, but there are similarities. They’re both about helping people and about being a part of something bigger than yourself.”