Kylie LaBelle, Sydney Maheu, Adele Taber

Kylie LaBelle, Sydney Maheu and Adele Taber
Photo by David Ammon

Three Mississippi State University students—Kylie LaBelle, Sydney Maheu and Adele Taber—spark new meaning to the phrase “girl power” as volunteer firefighters with the East Oktibbeha Volunteer Fire Department.

Maheu, a Collierville, Tennessee, native who grew up in Chicago, is a freshman business major with the hopes of eventually starting her own business. She said business and firefighting go hand in hand.

“My mom works for a company that makes rescue tools for firefighters, and I learned the company’s sales professionals must have fire experience,” she said. “When I met one of the firefighters from the station and he shared I could volunteer, I realized I could gain valuable experience for my future business career.”

Taber, who is from Johannesburg, South Africa, and grew up in Atlanta, is a senior wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major. She wants to pursue a career in prescribed-fire land management and said firefighting has helped with professional and personal growth.

“I really am not someone who likes change. I am very organized and plan things thoroughly, but this role has helped me grow in that area because when the tone drops, you must get up and go,” she said. “This experience has caused me to value the quiet moments more and be adaptable to change. I learned uncertainty is not the end of the world and you always end up getting through it.”

Taber was introduced to the opportunity by LaBelle, a Meridian native and senior wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major. LaBelle said she hopes to pursue a career in wildland firefighting or land management. She became a volunteer firefighter after attending MSU’s 2022 Service DAWGS Day where she volunteered to wash the firetrucks at the East Oktibbeha Volunteer Fire Station. Her love of volunteerism and the preparation the role provides for her future compelled her to join, she said.

“I hadn’t seen a lot of women represented in firefighting, so I did not realize it was an option for me until I spoke with some of the firefighters. Everyone at the station was extremely encouraging and said this as something I was absolutely capable of, so I did it,” LaBelle said.

One local citizen is thanking their lucky stars that LaBelle rose to the challenge. During a mid-January call, LaBelle and two other firefighters resuscitated an individual who survived after 10 minutes with no heartbeat. She and some of her colleagues were recognized for their heroism with the Oktibbeha County Fire Service Citizen Life Saving Award earlier this year.

 “Getting recognized for my heroism is great, but the only recognition I needed was giving that citizen a second shot at life,” she said. “It’s absolutely humbling, and I am very thankful to all the people who have helped me become the firefighter that I am today because it wasn’t just me, it was everyone who has helped me along the way that also deserves recognition.”

Kylie LaBelle, Sydney Maheu and Adele Taber