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Like father, like daughter: ‘I love that she has chosen something I do’

When Matt Fleming joined Bryan County Fire & EMS in 2015, he had no idea his daughter would one day feel the same pull to serve

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Photo/Courtesy of Matt Fleming

Matt Fleming joined Bryan County Fire & EMS as a part-time firefighter in 2015 after transitioning from working as a mechanic, before going full time three years later. Now serving as battalion chief of the department, his transition to the fire service wasn’t just about changing careers; it set the foundation for a path that his daughter, Taylor Fleming, would eventually follow.

Another Fleming dons the uniform

As a teenager, Taylor enrolled in and completed BCFEMS’ Fire Science Program, designed as an overview course that includes elements from both junior firefighting programs and recruit training.

“I loved it,” she told 91Ƶ. “I grew up with a lot of people teaching the class and busted my butt. I came to really like what we were doing and how we were doing it.”

After graduating from high school, Taylor immediately enrolled in the fire academy and joined the department’s ranks in the summer of 2023 – a decision influenced by her admiration for her father’s career and her own passion for service, despite her initial plan to enter the EMS side.

“I came into this to be a paramedic, but then I ended up getting on the engine and learning the whole fire side and falling in love,” she said. “I’m still debating on becoming a medic.”

Though a nepotism policy prevents the father-daughter duo from being on the same shift, their shared community commitment has strengthened their relationship.

“I love working with her,” Chief Fleming said. “I love that she has chosen something that I do; I know a lot of parents would push their child to do something else.”

‘A higher standard’

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Photo/Courtesy of Matt Fleming

Though both Flemings are grateful to work in the same department, there have been a few challenges to overcome.

For Taylor, making a mark for herself has been an uphill battle while sharing the name of a department leader.

“It’s been a struggle because they hold me to a higher standard,” she said. “At the same time, I bust my butt around here as much as possible, so they look at me as a person and not as my dad’s kid.”

Chief Fleming faces the same obstacle – treating his daughter like any other firefighter.

“I’ve been here long enough that I can separate things. I would send her into something just like I would send somebody else into something,” he said. “But that fear factor of having a closer bond with her, it would probably mess me up a little bit more if something happened to her while I was in charge of a scene as opposed to somebody else.”

The emotional toll the profession takes is also something Chief Fleming worries about for his daughter.

“We joke and laugh about certain calls sometimes, but I want her to be able to experience it and find ways through her own career to deal with some of the stuff we have to deal with,” he said. “I can be there to support and guide her, but she’s got to figure out herself as an individual how to navigate this life and this career field.”

The future burns bright

As Taylor settles into fire service life, her father is already looking to the future and what it might bring.

“If she sticks with it and keeps up the pace and her eagerness to continue what she’s doing, maybe by the time I’m ready to retire, she’ll be ready to move up into a senior spot and put another Fleming name on a gold badge,” Chief Fleming said.

For her part, Taylor is on board: “That’s the plan.”

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of FireRescue1.com and 91Ƶ.com. In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.