SPRINGFIELD — When Yolimar Torres was looking for a new career choice, her father, Springfield Firefighter Jorge Colón, suggested she take the civil service exam.
"I was joking," he said remembering the day when his 26-year-old daughter told him she had indeed taken the test. "I then tried to convince her not to go forward with it, but it was too late, she was determined."
Colón is proud of his daughter and knows she is capable, but still he worries about her.
"I just want her to always be safe," said Colón, who has been with the department for more than 30 years. "It's a great job and as long as you have a passion for it you can do it."
Torres was one of 13 new recruits to join the Springfield Fire Department during a ceremony held Friday morning at the Carew Street station.
"This is not just a job; it's a way of life," said Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant as he addressed the new firefighters. "You will see things no one should have to see and be asked to do things no one should have to do, but that does not detract from the fact that this is the best job in the world."
The graduating class includes Anthony Almadovar, Dennis Brantley, Kevin MacLellan, Matthew McElhiney, Samuel Nelson, Adalberto Perez, Aaron Rathburn, Felix Rivera, Frankie Rodriguez and Erik Ryan. Ryan Machado was welcomed to the department by his grandfather, retired Deputy Chief Ralph Guyer; David LaPalm was welcomed by his brother Firefighter William LaPalm.
"There is a tradition of multiple generations of firefighters in one department, I am a second generation firefighter," Conant said.
Torres is a unique case for various reasons, not only is she believed to be the first Latina firefighter on the department, she is also the only woman on a department of 260 firefighters and she will not only join her father but her brother Eduardo Colón, who is also a Springfield firefighter.
Torres said she doesn't think of herself as a woman in the department.
"I don't see it as much as other people see it. I just see it as me doing my job," she said. "I wanted to be different. I wanted to do something that not all women set out to do and I love it so far. I wanted to do something that will make a change."
Torres said she is expected to do all of the things that the male firefighters can do regardless of her stature or gender.
"I have to do what the tall guys do and what the strongest man does," she said. "I'm ready to follow orders and make sure I stay in tact."
Torres had a large crowd at the ceremony all waiting to take pictures with her and cheer her on, most important on that list were her mother Mari Colón and her son Jaylen Gonzalez, 6.
"She is a daughter, a sister, a mother, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts with a degree in economics, a property manager, a realtor and now a firefighter," said her mother Mari Colón. "She wears many hats and I am so very proud of her."