Stephanie Bouillion-Mayer is one of three women in the world to earn US&R Rescue Specialist certification

Stephanie Bouillion. photography Yuvie Styles
Stephanie Bouillion. photography Yuvie Styles
From teaching to EMS to earning the title as the only female US&R Rescue Specialist in Texas, Stephanie Bouillon-Mayer serves her community.

Stephanie Bouillion-Mayer takes fire-rescue to the next level. In 2020, 89,600 firefighters were female, or 9% of all firefighters. Of the career firefighters, only 17,200 or 5% are female. Even fewer are trained for fire-rescue. Fewer than that, in fact only three women in the world, are US&R Rescue Specialist certified.

Stephanie Bouillion-Mayer, a firefighter at Plano Fire-Rescue, is one of them. And the first in Texas.

“I’m proud of her and proud to be able to see the accomplishments coming together,” Anthony DiMarco, a member of Bouillion-Mayer’s Urban Search and Rescue team, says.

Bouillion-Mayer didn’t always want to be a firefighter. She got her degree in biology and shortly after became a teacher.

“I taught high school for a couple of years, and it was definitely not my thing,” Bouillion-Mayer says. “I had been a lifeguard most of my life as a kid and through college. I thought, ‘What’s the big-kid version of lifeguarding?’ And then I found out about EMS.”

Bouillion-Mayer started taking EMT classes at night while teaching during the day.

“I really fell in love with it from there,” Bouillion-Mayer says. “I quit my teaching job and went back to working as a lifeguard until I got an EMT job at the hospital.”

From there, Bouillion-Mayer kept climbing. She went through paramedic school, then fire school, then accepted volunteer opportunities before finding a full-time position at the Garland Fire Department.

“I didn’t really plan on leaving Garland, but [my husband] moved from Southlake to Plano Fire,” Bouillion-Mayer says. “Plano has so many opportunities to do all kinds of rescue, and I do the clown program, where we go out and teach at the schools and stuff. I want all the career opportunities to do these things I’m interested in.”

Bouillion-Mayer wasn’t a stranger to Plano. She grew up going through Plano ISD and Prestonwood Christian before returning to work for Plano Fire-Rescue.

She sought out the US&R Rescue Specialist certification to be prepared to join rescue teams and to be able to work with organizations such as FEMA that respond to disasters. The certification provides fire-rescue personnel with the highest level of training, with hundreds of hours of rescue training at the Texas A&M Engineering and Extension Service.

“When we respond to our own incidents in town, I have more skills, more practice and more knowledge from going into these classes and getting the certificates and hands-on training time,” Bouillion-Mayer says.

Though she is one of three women in the world to complete the program, Bouillion-Mayer attributes that to multiple factors, like the low number of female firefighters in general, the time commitment of the class and the cost of the program to the fire departments.

“Everybody knows, women are stretched out between working and home expectations and everything. [We] get stretched pretty thin,” Bouillion-Mayer says. “I don’t think it’s a lack of ability or desire or anything. There’s just not that many women in the fire service as it is.”

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