will and grace
Meet the heroic Houston firefighter blazing a trail in this year's smoke show pinup calendar
The Houston Fire Fighters Calendar is back and there’s a twist for the first time: female heroes are mixed in with the expected shirtless, greased-up, muscle-bulging, beefcake guys.
Tara Grace, 45, adorns the month of December. She is an active fire fighter, a 19-year veteran of the Houston Fire Department, assigned to Station 42 near the Ship Channel. This is her first experience as a calendar girl.
The 2023 Houston Fire Fighters Calendar is available for $35 — plus $6 for shipping — online. The calendar was produced by the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Charitable Foundation, benefitting the its Burned Children’s initiative.
We caught up with “TARA FIREFIGHTER” as she’s billed on the calendar. Grace is pictured wearing a relatively modest red tank top and regulation tan fire fighter pants. She is holding a cat.
CultureMap: Seriously, when was the last time you climbed a tree to rescue a cat? Is that even a thing for fire fighters anymore?
Tara Grace: Not necessarily climbed a tree to get a cat down, but we actually do rescue animals that are trapped inside a house fire pretty frequently.
I’ve rescued several dogs over the past couple of years. One of the things that is cool about the calendar is we have some rescue animals in a few of the photos. I think that’s awesome. I was glad to do that part.
CultureMap: What attracted you to become a fire fighter?
TG: I heard about it while I was a personal trainer in a health club. It always interested me. I didn’t have any family members who were in the fire department or anything like that. I had always heard more about female cops than fire fighters.
I met some folks during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo that introduced me to some female fire fighters. I just stepped out and gave it a whirl. It was a challenge and I absolutely loved that part of it.
CultureMap: Did you have to audition for the calendar or did somebody just say you’re going to be the December model?
TG: I did have to audition and that was more nerve wracking than doing the photo shoot. You’re in front of your peers, a formal selection committee. If you’re not used to that, it’s a very strange experience. It’s more than just trying to look cute.
CultureMap: You’re not wearing a bikini or posed in a sexually provocative position. Was that on purpose?
TG: We wanted to show that there are female fire fighters and we are strong. We’re also a limited number. We are less than three percent of the fire fighters in Houston. It’s important that we are represented in the calendar this time.
I like my photo. We were in a house that actually just burned down a week prior to my photos so it was a really cool setting. Plus, I’m proud that the calendar raises awareness of the burn children.
CultureMap: Do fire fighters really slide down poles?
TG: I have done that. I slid down one a couple of weeks ago when I was at Station 20. But they don’t make stations anymore with poles.
CultureMap: How often do you respond to a fire?
TG: It’s pretty regular. We answer for a lot of car fires and truck fires. There are warehouses by my station. We also have a neighborhood. One recent day, we had two car fires and one house fire. So, it’s hit or miss.
CultureMap: Do fire fighters sleep at the station? What is your schedule like?
TG: We all sleep in the dorm together like one big, happy family. It’s like a night out camping. I’m camping with the dudes. It’s a minimum of two 24-hour shifts a week. We work 6:30 am to 6:30 am shifts. The city is short on staffing right now so sometimes we work three days in a row.
CultureMap: Are fire fighters really great cooks? How would you rate yourself?
TG: You can ask the guys in my station: I believe that a few of us have some magic cooking skills for sure. Like last night, I made beef teriyaki with vegetables and Jasmine rice and vegetable egg rolls.
Support the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Charitable Foundation and its Burned Children’s initiative by purchasing the 2023 Houston Fire Fighters Calendar online.
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