Fire Power

A female firefighter leans against a fire truck that's part of the Hoboken, N.J., department.

(Photo: Karsten Moran)

Audra Carter, BA’00 (Metro)

By Kenna Caprio

For 21 years, Audra Carter, BA’00 (Metro), has been fighting fires in Hoboken, N.J. She’s just one of three women on the city’s squad, and its first female battalion chief.

“For 19 years, I was what’s called a line firefighter and then a line captain. You’re living in the firehouse, training together, going on calls and putting out fires. Now, as a battalion chief, I’m in charge of training and the training division. I work at headquarters, have my own office and am more computer-based. It’s a totally different world!”

As an undergraduate student at FDU, Carter studied hospitality and tourism management. “Even though I’m not directly using my degree for career purposes, the management skills that I learned are ones I still use. In my job, I’m managing, delegating and working with people. All that applies and is transferable.”

For firefighters on the line, teamwork and communication are paramount. “Your head has to be in the right place. You have to think about building plans and be familiar with new construction. You have to be aware of your surroundings and be listening to one another,” says Carter.

And then there’s all that gear.

Firefighters carry about 70–80 pounds total. “It’s a 45-pound air pack [a portable air tank that allows firefighters to breathe in hazardous air conditions], plus a helmet, clothing gear and boots. And, you might be carrying the hose or an ax. It’s not easy. You must be physically fit and maintain physical endurance. You can’t give it 50 percent.”

A critical component of Carter’s role now is to make sure all 120 Hoboken career firefighters are current on their certifications and any new technology or equipment.

“I’m proud of the risk I took to change my life. When I came onto the scene, I was very nervous. I had no acquaintances in the fire department. I did not know what to expect. Everybody was friendly, welcoming and supportive. It’s been a great career,” says Carter.

She pauses, “I would like to see more women on the job.” There’s a written test and a physical test for candidates, plus a city residency requirement. “We have to aggressively recruit.”


As a student, Audra Carter participated in the hospitality trip to Switzerland. She remembers fondly the way the trip helped her build bonds with her fellow students as they visited hotels, restaurants and wineries to see the industry firsthand.


“I love to cook, and if I’m going to impress somebody, I’m making seafood risotto.”


Carter recommends that everyone take CPR, Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and first-aid classes. “You don’t want to be sitting there and feel frozen if something happens. It takes just a little bit of knowledge to be able to do something until a professional arrives.”


  1. Ready to fall back or spring forward? It’s also time to check and change the batteries in home smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
  2. Be diligent and careful about purchasing ion batteries. Only buy from authorized sellers.
  3. If there’s a fire in a high-rise building, make sure to close the door on the way out.