GARLAND — Kaela Watts is proud to call the Garland area home. It’s the reason she’s always ready to hop on a fire truck and help someone when she’s called.
For her Watts was recently honored by her colleagues for her 10 years of service on the Garland Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department. Several members were also recognized for their contributions during a special occasion in Garland. Watts enjoys the experience and said the department feels like family.
“It feels like I haven’t been on that long, but I learned a lot,” Watts said. “I felt very honored to get it and I look forward to the next 1o years. I don’t plan on going anywhere.”
As a woman, she was not intimidated to join a male-dominated field. Watts continuously receives training and responds to calls when she’s not at work. Some of her certifications involve hazmat (hazardous materials) and technical rescue training.
“It’s a great learning experience and you get to learn so much,” she said. “There’s so much knowledge you can learn anywhere in life.”
Growing up, the Garland native remembers days of firefighters at work with sirens blazing. It’s something she heard a lot when she took trips to her mother’s job at the Garland Shirt Factory.
“There were so many times that the fire alarms would go off in town and you would see them come running,” Watts said about her childhood years. “You knew they were doing something to help somebody.”
As she got older, Watts had her mind made up to help to become a member of the department.
“I watched them for a long time and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” she said. “I wanted to help my community and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Watts attended Union High School and went to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke after graduation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. Watts later returned home and lives in the Garland area with her husband Adam Watts, a native of Keener. When Watts is not helping as a firefighter, she at Huff Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine helping clients at the office in Clinton.
As a volunteer firefighter, Watts encourages to get involved and become dedicated to the department.
“It’s hard when there’s just a few, but thankfully we have a good fire department,” Watts said. “Everybody pulls together and do what they need to do. We do well together.”
She recently led a toy drive, a new initiative during the Christmas season. Watts also assisted firefighters with providing meals to needy families in the Garland area. It’s one of many services she’ll continue to do for others.
“I feel that anybody who has a love for their community, the fire department is the perfect place,” Watts said. “No matter what call you go to, you’re helping somebody in some way.”