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After 20 years, the first female career firefighter is pursuing a new passion

After more than 20 years, Dawn Hinz is changing careers in pursuit of a different passion.

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. — After more than 20 years, Dawn Hinz, the first career female firefighter in Van Buren County, is hanging up her helmet in pursuit of a different passion.

She hopes her journey will inspire other young girls to go after their dreams.

Hinz has served her last shift as a firefighter paramedic with the South Haven Fire Department this week.

“It was the hardest decision of my life to decide to hang up my fire hat. It's been a part of my identity for you know, over two decades,” Hinz said.

She says it was during her senior year of high school that she decided to become a firefighter.

“I liked the challenging aspect and the multipurpose direction, you have the, you know, brawny side of firefighting, and also the critical thinking side of EMS," Hinz said.

As the first full-time female firefighter in Van Buren County, she faced some challenges.

“I was under high scrutiny to live up to the task. But time and time again, I was able to prove to them that yes, I'm here for you and I will not let you down,” Hinz said.

She was welcomed into a “brotherhood” that became like a second family.

“There's a huge camaraderie to the fire department and, you know, a lot of comedy and joking so that part is you know, it's a lot of friendships.”

Now after 7 years with the Covert Fire Department and 14 in South Haven, Hinz is changing careers.

She’s going to become a wellness coach for Athletic Mentors out of Richland.

“From the time I was a kid, I loved gym class, and I want to share that passion with other people and help them make good healthy choices for them so they can have a long life themselves," Hinz said.

For girls who are considering getting into what’s considered a male-dominated industry, Dawn has this advice.

“Just know that you can do it. But you are going to have to put in the work, you know, you're going to have to learn that industry and be very proficient in it to be considered equal to your male counterpart. And then yeah, you can go a long way," Hinz said.

Hinz is a true trailblazer who has paved the way for others and will continue to make a difference in the community.

Dawn has passed the torch to the next generation. There are now two more full-time female firefighters with the South Haven Fire Department.

Her son is also following in her footsteps. He just graduated from the fire academy. 


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