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Meet Birmingham Fire Capt. Nina Taylor: ‘I see it as a way to help people’

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Captain Nina Taylor is based at Fire Station #18 in Pratt City. (Marvin Gentry, For The Birmingham Times)
By Sydney Melson
The Birmingham Times

Nina Taylor, hired on Dec. 22, 2003, said her road to her captain was a tough one.

“We took tests almost two years in advance for the promotion,” she said. “I’ve always felt that what is written in a book never prepares you for what you’ll see in the community. If the book says you have to get a blood pressure and rate of respiration then perform CPR on a person who’s unconscious, it doesn’t prepare you for someone who has been in a car accident and has a limb hanging off. You need to reassure them without saying, ‘I’m going to save your life.’ When people are in distress, they maneuver differently.”

When the going got tough, Taylor’s son, Steve, who was a toddler when she joined the BFRS, help her get through.

“If I had a bad day and came home at 8 o’clock in the morning, I’d sit on the stairs and be there until three, enjoying the sun and listening to the birds, because I didn’t want to take that energy into my home,” Taylor said. “[Steve] would get off the bus [from school] and ask me if I’d had a bad day. I’d say, ‘Yeah,’ so we’d go in the house, pack a bag, get in the car, and just go. He’d pick a direction, and we’d drive somewhere. I loved it when he said south because we’d go to the beach.”

Taylor still loves to travel.

“I’m working through my third passport,” she said. “My getaway is to take a flight to a tropical place, sit with a good book, and sip some mai tais.”

An Ensley native, who is the oldest of three daughters from parents who have been married for 45 years, and produced a firefighter captain (Taylor), a doctor and an actress.

Taylor, a 17-year BFRS employee, has experienced a lot. She’s had a modeling career, owns and operates three businesses, and done medical and legal staffing work—but her heart eventually landed in a firefighting career thanks to the love of her life: her now-21-year-old son.

“[Steve and I] were reading through the paper one day and saw an ad that said, ‘You could become a firefighter!’ He got super excited and told me I could do it. … You know, kids just make you believe you can do anything, so I applied for the job.”

Taylor is also a fulltime teacher at Midfield High School who created a Career Tech program that is certifying students in the community to become firefighters Emergency Medical Technicians.

The captain attended Birmingham’s Baker Elementary, Bush Middle and Ensley High Schools. She also attended Miles College and Columbia Southern University where she obtained degrees in Fire Science and Occupational Safety and Health.

One of her businesses offers affordable in-depth certifications to help save lives in the community. Another is a nonprofit for special needs children that conducts toy drives and other services.

When Taylor told others that she wanted to become a firefighter, she received some pushback.

“When you tell other women you want to become a firefighter, they’re like, ‘You’ve done modeling, you’re a secretary, why do you want to do this manly job?’ I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as a way to help people,” Taylor said.

Updated at 10:17 a.m. on 1/21/2021 to add background on Taylor.

Click one of the links below to read more stories about Female captains. 

Birmingham (AL) Police: Meet the First 5 Female Captains to Serve at Same Time

Know Birmingham Fire Capt. Florence Bradley: ‘You need experience and knowledge’

Follow Birmingham Fire Capt. Sarah Johnson: ‘You can’t do anything without a team’