WB Ocean Rescue and FireFIGHTER K. Smiraglia
“Are you really going to rescue me if I get caught in a rip current?”
“What are you doing up there?”
“Oh, you get to suntan all day.”
These common slights don’t faze the 5-foot-3-inch, petite-framed, 23-year-old K. Smiraglia.
The seasoned member of Wrightsville Beach’s elite Ocean Rescue team is also an advanced EMT.
And she just so happens to be Wrightsville Beach’s 2018 Firefighter of The Year.
Despite any preconceptions, Smiraglia declares with humble honesty, “I just love the idea of
first responding and being there for someone when they’re at the worst — when they’re scared
to death — and being the person to help them.”
Smiraglia has had to work hard to get to where she is today. As an accident-prone young girl,
with no sense of self-preservation, she suffered injuries that prevented her from playing collegiate
soccer. Attending UNC Wilmington but unable to give up on that dream, she found an alter-native
route to earning scholarships by excelling at track. Smiraglia’s tenacity and athletic com-petitiveness
paid off when she tried out for Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue three years ago.
Despite Smiraglia’s prowess at track, she was not a collegiate-level swimmer and had to work
even harder to qualify. Further, Smiraglia earned her Advanced EMT certification to enhance
her own skills beyond the required level.
If she’s not on the stand in the summer or driving the Ocean Rescue patrol truck, she’s
employed as a town firefighter. She’s also at every class helping train new recruits, bringing a
valuable insight as a young woman who describes herself as “a tiny little thing.”
Being a young, female firefighter brings no shortage of stigmas for Smiraglia either. “People
think that being a firefighter, you have to be big, you have to be strong — and you do have to
be strong — but you have to know how to use your tools. It’s a lot of leverage, it’s hard and you
have to be able to do it yourself, at least with the 24-foot ladder. It’s amazing, though, if you’re
using your tools the way they’re supposed to be used, you really can be small and do it. You just
have to not give up, or use your tools differently. I just have to understand the physics of my
tools and how they’re going to work for me.”
She finds the first responder community of Wrightsville Beach to be a family. “Everyone sup-ports
you in both your strengths and weaknesses. When you’re a part of it, it’s something incred-ible.
Together, it makes this really powerful and amazing group of people who build each other
up. It makes me more confident about being able to help people and save people’s lives.”
Smiraglia feels that being an EMT as a woman brings a unique advantage in that she can have
a nurturing side that helps people feel comfortable when the something bad has happened to
them. “When there are a bunch of unfamiliar faces coming up to you in uniform when you’ve
been in an accident, I think it’s important to have a nurturing approach to help calm someone
down. Particularly with other women who I’m responding to.”
Though she is on a trajectory toward continued career success and calls it, “The best job in
the world and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do,” she is nervous about the proverbial ‘glass
ceiling’ because, “eventually, I want to be a mom, and, to me, that is a glass ceiling for a lot of
It’s evident that Smiraglia’s energetic perseverance and driving work ethic will continue to
allow her to succeed in anything she sets her mind on accomplishing. Although the idea of
breaking the mold as a woman inspires her, anyone who is dedicated to their craft and puts in
the hard work to achieve their goals are the type of people who actually challenge Smiraglia to
continue to be better.
Firefighter, advanced EMT and lifeguard K. Smiraglia uses the tools of her trade to work effectively
alongside other members of the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department and Ocean Rescue, including
E. Nabell (left) and J. Scull.
WBM june 2019