MADISONVILLE - Anna Leming aspires to a leadership role on the Sequoyah Lady Chiefs softball team.
The first baseman has been fighting to make her team better for three years and counting.
She's also a three-year veteran fighting fires. As in, she's a firefighter. A real, legitimate volunteer firefighter.
"Everybody has a little pager they carry around, sometimes a radio," Leming said. "In my house, we've got them everywhere. When our tones go off, we hop up and head to the fire department. Get your stuff on in under a minute and be on your way."
Leming can suit up in a fire suit in 40 seconds, give or take. It's instinctual, in her blood.
“I was practically born there," Leming said of the Tri-Community Volunteer Department in Madisonville. "I remember being there when I was little. I remember all those guys being there. It’s just a big family. I’ve always been there. It was my dream to grow up and be a volunteer just like my dad."
Her father, by the way, is Chief Chad Leming. He's run the operations at the fire departments since the early 2000s. His father, Dwayne, was in charge before him.
Just as Chad wanted to accompany his father on a call, Anna was the same as a young girl.
“When she [Anna] was little I’d say, ‘Oh you better not go with me on this one’ or ‘Ah, it’s just a little fire, you can go,'" Chad said. "Now she goes on all of them.”
Anna officially started volunteering at age 14. Her life hasn't been in any imminent danger; as a minor, she's in a controlled environment when she helps on a call.
“I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff," Leming said. "It’s a small town, so nothing too big. Lot of house fires, lot of brush fires – the brush fires were bad this past fall."
The work is relentless; during the fire at Pro Tech in Vonore, her unit arrived at 11 p.m. Anna didn't sleep until 7 the next morning.
There have been several nights like that one - running a structure fire for four or five hours, taking a couple breaks in between, then go to school the very next day.
“I don’t want to sound crazy or anything, but it’s fun," Leming said. "I don’t want anybody’s property to be hurt, but I enjoy it and it gives a lot of character.”
Anna is the youngest volunteer at the Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department, the only girl and the chief's daughter. Quite an impressive résumé. She gets picked on every now and then, but she's been there forever.
"When I was a child, I always prayed for a big brother," Leming said. "That’s all I wanted. And I got a whole bunch of big brothers with the fire department. It’s just a family thing."
Softball and firefighting have a few things in common - especially the risks required in each. Leming said she gets a similar nervous feeling in a softball game as she does when she's on her way to a call.
"The adrenaline, the enjoyment. It’s just something about it – it’s probably the best thing in the world," Leming said.
Also required: the desire and ability to get better. Leming has been playing softball since she was eight years old. Eventually, she'd like to play at the next level, before going to UT for nursing school.
"I’ve seen her as she’s grown up through softball, how much better she’s become just by going the extra mile and doing the extra training," Chad Leming, who also coaches his daughter's select fastpitch team, said. "Sometimes she’s out on the field by herself practicing. Same thing at the fire department."
Chief Leming said Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department always needs more volunteers. If interested, you can reach the department at 423-420-FIRE.
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