High schooler, mother become volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania together amid national shortage

ByChristie Ileto WPVI logo
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Montgomery County's first mother-daughter duo become volunteer firefighters together
A mother-daughter duo in Montgomery County is fighting fires together, while helping fill a national shortage of volunteer firefighters.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pennsylvania -- They're an unlikely pair changing the landscape of volunteer firefighters in their community.

Mokeira Gekonge has always been interested in public service, so signing up to be a volunteer firefighter was a no-brainer.

Her mother, Betsy Gekonge, saw it as a chance to do something with her daughter.

Now, the mother-daughter duo is fighting fires together while helping fill a national shortage of volunteer firefighters.

"I was surprised because I never expected her to do it with me," said Mokeira.

The rising high school senior says she thought she'd be going to the fire academy alone. She never expected to have company.

"I was really inspired by her desire to want to be a volunteer firefighter," said Betsy. "I thought this would be something fun to do with her."

The duo completed 180 hours from August 2022 to June 2023 and now volunteers with the Barren Hill fire company in Montgomery County.

Right now, the nation, including Pennsylvania, is dealing with a firefighter shortage.

According to the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, there were 300,000 volunteer firefighters across the state in the 1970s. That number dwindled to 38,000 in 2018.

"I find it very fulfilling. Gives me a sense of purpose and I'm helping to contribute to the solution," said Mokiera.

Right now, Montgomery County says they have about 60 inquiries this year about becoming a volunteer firefighter, but could always use more.

For more information on becoming a volunteer firefighter, CLICK HERE.