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There for Those in Need: Two Legs or Four

By Lynnette Esse, LFVFR support member

Melissa Mainville, Captain, Little Fork Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, Rixeyville, VA

Melissa Mainville, Captain

Back in 2011 Melissa Mainville, who is working full time as a speech pathologist for Fauquier Health, received an invitation from a friend that changed her life. Kate Chrismer, a Little Fork paramedic, invited her friend to do a ride-along.

“I hung out with the team all day,” Melissa recalled. “There was a lightning strike in South Wales that day. I got to ride in the fire truck. There was a young girl, perhaps 5 or 6 years old, standing outside with a look of sheer terror on her face. I smiled at her and waved and she smiled and waved back. In that moment, I realized that I could make a difference with such a simple little act of kindness. I realized that I wanted do this kind of work.”

Eager to learn all that she could, Melissa took the EMT-basic class first, followed immediately by the Firefighter l class, and she was hooked!

Melissa Mainville, Lieutenant, Little Fork Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, Rixeyville, VANext came Hazardous Materials Awareness and Operations, Firefighter ll, Fire Instructor Level l and ll, and Fire Officer l and ll. She was in the second group of people who took the Technical Large Animal Rescue Technician training.

This semester she is taking EMT- Advanced to learn to provide a higher level of care, such as starting IV’s. She never stops learning and finding ways to improve her skills.

This committed young woman, who worked hard and served innumerable hours over the next four years, was promoted to Lieutenant in 2015. She now rides Officer on the fire truck, getting the apparatus to the scene, looking up the address on the map (no, they do not rely on GPS), assigning duties, maintaining safety awareness, tracking each crew member at all times, and communicating with the Chief. If it is an EMS call, she rides in the ambulance.

She runs calls every night when she is not at work or at the barn with her horse, averaging over 300 calls a year.

The Rewards of Volunteer Service

“Working at the hospital, I used to wonder where the patients came from,” Melissa said. “I wondered how I could help provide a pre-hospital level of care. Now I know how I can be of service and it is incredibly rewarding. It is a good feeling to get someone to the hospital safely and provide the care that they need.”

With a Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology, Melissa fell in love with the medical aspect of the adult and geriatric population who needs speech therapy. She loves talking with people and listening to their stories. She works with stroke patients, medically complex patients in intensive care, and people with swallowing, speech, or language disorders.

Melissa’s love for horses began in 2006 when she took a series of riding lessons. After riding, showing, and fox hunting with borrowed horses, she finally purchased her now 16-year-old mare, Ruthie, in 2010.

“Ruthie is phenomenal!” Melissa says. “She knows her job when fox hunting and trail riding. She even has a fan club. She’s just an all-around kind of gal!”

Little Fork’s “Horse Behavior Specialist”

It was her love of horses that prompted Melissa to take the Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue (TLAER) course and get involved in the newly launched program at Little Fork.

“Our Technical Large Animal Rescue Program has been so successful to a large degree thanks to Melissa’s knowledge of animal (especially horses) behavior,” says Little Fork Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief Doug Monaco. “I would consider her our horse behavior specialist. Understanding what is going on in the animal’s mind is a large part of what we do. Survival instinct kicks in when the animal is in distress. Melissa warns the team when the animal is about to react so that we can get out of the way. She keeps everyone safe.”