Internship Gives Inside Look at Life of a Fire Marshal
Internship Gives Inside Look at Life of a Fire Marshal

by Dave Cranshaw
UNH Today Editor


Mary Frances Gannon ’16 was in elementary school in Washington, D.C., when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occured. Despite her young age, the bravery of those who responded to the tragedy that day planted a seed in her to pursue a career as a first-responder.

Later, a close friend was injured in an arson fire, and Gannon decided to focus on fire investigation.

“I truly believe that people deserve to be protected,” said Gannon, a fire science and criminal justice double major. “That is my driving force for entering and being a part of this field. I will dedicate every part of me to make sure that people feel safe and have someone to turn to in their time of need.”

Mary Frances Gannon '16 looks over site plans with Southbury fire marshal Barry Rickert (Photo courtesy of Jim Shannon, Republican-American)

Over winter break, Gannon gained valuable hands-on experience as an intern in the Southbury fire marshal’s office. On her first day on the job, she examined the remains of a fire-damaged garage to learn about the burn patterns.

Then, as temperatures went from subzero to above freezing, she joined the town’s fire marshal, Barry Rickert, as he inspected an ice jam on the Pomperaug River and met a citizen concerned that her home would be damaged if the river flooded. She also was involved in an inspection of an old factory building and assisted with calculating building occupancy for a community meeting.

“It’s one thing to learn it in the classroom, but it is another thing to be able to experience it in the field,” Gannon told the Republican-American in an article about the internship. “I’m getting so much valuable experience.”

“She’s seeing a lot of different things,” Rickert told the Republican-American. “It’s a pleasure for someone to come in here and volunteer their time for a town they don’t even know.”

Gannon first met Rickert last summer when she interned with the fire marshal’s office in Danbury, where Rickert previously served as fire marshal. She went to fire scenes and assisted with investigations and inspections. “I really got an excellent taste of what this field entails,” she said.

They stayed in touch, and Rickert invited her to shadow him in his new position in Southbury during the winter break.

This summer, she will continue her work, assisting the Southbury fire marshal’s office on several special projects. Her goal after graduation is to work with the state police in its fire and explosion investigation unit.

“UNH is widely known for its excellent fire science and criminal justice programs,” said Gannon. “I really feel like I couldn’t have found a better fit for me. UNH really makes me feel like I was meant for this.”

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