The firefighter’s child’s experience


Mandi Steffes

Shawn and Maddie Kohner share a moment together after a summer softball tournament.

What is it like to be part of a firefighter’s family?

People  know firefighters are willing to sacrifice their lives for others, and know the dangers they might face. However, not many people consider the lives of firefighter’s children. What are their struggles or challenges they face in their lives?

Maddie Kohner, a Cotter senior,  born on June 17, 2003, in LaCrosse, WI, has a father who is currently working at the fire station across the street as a firefighter.

Her family her dad Shawn, mom Michelle, an older brother Brandon, a sister Elanna, and a younger brother Cale, they also have  two dogs and a cat.

Maddie’s dad, Shawn Kohner, working as a firefighter at a downtown fire in Winona. (photo by the Winona Fire department)


“It is kind of difficult because firefighters are wired to be protectors and when you are not at home you feel like you cannot protect your other ones at home,” Shawn Kohner said.

What made Mr. Kohner become a firefighter?

“The thought of helping people, the excitement, and there are no Mondays. I mean it’s always something new. It’s never repetitive.”

He also shared his thought about his colleagues and the current situation in working. When he first started out, they didn’t have Zoom meetings, Skype, or Facetime. After years of work experience without having any method to video call,  led him to think about all the new guys starting these days who have the ability to video call their family.  This is a nice change for firefighters who are working long shifts because they also want to be at home and meet their family as much as possible.

A year before Maddie was born, her father became a firefighter. Shawn also volunteered to help firefighters since 1992. So she has been a fireman’s child for her whole life.

Just as firefighters have these feelings of concern for their families, the family sometimes worries about the safety of the firefighters.

“It’s hard and good at the same time,” she said. “It’s great to see my dad helping the community, but sometimes he misses some important events: birthdays, and holidays,” Maddie said.

Although there are a lot of difficulties, as she mentioned, like missing major family events, she says, “I also love the community my dad has with his job and we always have fun with the other firefighters. Plus it’s also fun to visit and eat dinner with them.”

Maddie’s dad, Shawn cutting through the roof during a Winona house fire.  (photo: Winona Fire department)

According to Providentfireplus, “Within the unique lifestyle that comes with firefighting, families must adjust to the irregular work hours that go hand-in-hand with the job. Feeling of abandonment is common. Relationships sometimes reach a breaking point, and forced alter things to even have time for each other. The other partner is often left in the role of being somewhat of a single parent and head of the household. Firefighters regularly miss out on special events and are unable to make firm plans with friends and family. There is also a sense of isolation created when the non-firefighter partner witnesses the special family-like closeness within the fire and rescue team yet work-related details can never be discussed in their own home.”

As someone who knows well about fire and its dangerousness, Shawn told his family to be cautious in dealing with fire.

“My dad does not allow the burning of candles and so I use a heating plate, unplug things I am not using, and if we have a campfire, making sure the flame is out before bed,” Maddie said.

Even though it is true that there are a few conflicts and worries for her father, Maddie likes her father as a firefighter and is proud of him.

“I think people are lucky to have my dad, and I got to know many firefighters working for our community. The group of people I got to know from the fire station is the funniest and most awesome group of firefighters ever.”