KILGORE — Five years ago, Julie Webb achieved her childhood dream — the first part, at least — when she joined the ranks of the Kilgore Fire Department.
Now, the fire department driver/engineer has finished the second part, becoming certified as an arson investigator. And in doing so, she’s also become the first woman to hold the position in Kilgore.
Webb had to complete almost 1,100 hours of additional training, including becoming a police officer, plus passing several state exams.
“When I got into this career ... it was a lifelong dream of mine I didn’t think was possible. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a firefighter,” Webb said.
While she was still young, that desire evolved into a driving curiosity about delving into the sources of fires and examining them after the fact.
Six years ago, Webb initially joined Sabine Volunteer Fire Department — now Sabine Fire & Rescue. After about a year, she completed the necessary training to join the Kilgore Fire Department. She’d soon achieved the driver/engineer rank, and, about two years ago, she expressed her interest in the investigative side of the fire service.
After that, “It actually happened really fast,” she said. “Everything just kinda fell into place.”
For the mother of three, one of the largest steps toward the new skill set was completing the daytime basic police academy, 750-plus hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with occasional evenings Mondays through Fridays.
“I had wonderful support with KFD,” continuing to work shifts, she said. Meanwhile, “Overton Police Department sponsored me for it, when they carried my commission.”
An inspector/plans examiner training required 196 hours, and an investigator training required 150 hours. Each involved coursework, necessary state skills completion and state exams.
Worth it, Webb said.
She pointed out the distinction between a fire investigator and an arson investigator.
“In order to investigate all fires, I’d have to be a police officer, so I jumped into it,” she said. “Once there’s any evidence of a crime being committed, that’s when you need to be a police officer.
“This allows me to continue to be involved in the whole process.”
Attached to Kilgore Fire Marshal’s Brandon Bigos’ office as an arson investigator, Webb will continue her work as a Kilgore Fire Department driver/engineer, taking on additional duties when necessary.
Bigos presented Webb with her official shield for the fire marshal’s office during the Kilgore City Council’s July 23 meeting.
“I don’t get a lot of firefighters who are interested in that, because it’s a long process,” Bigos said. “It’s an extensive process to get you there,” working through the police academy and all the specialized training that accompanies the arson investigator distinction.
“I do believe, on top of that, Julie is going to be our first female arson investigator here in the city of Kilgore,” Bigos said. “I’m very proud of that as well.”