Veteran, Football Player, Lifesaver

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UW Tacoma student Ashley Young, Air Force veteran and women’s pro tackle football player, responded quickly when she saw a fire break out in a Tacoma neighborhood.

After celebrating the 4th of July with friends and family, UW Tacoma senior Ashley Young found herself in a fight-or-flight situation. While leaving the normally quiet Tacoma neighborhood near S. 52nd St. and Yakima Ave., shortly after 1 a.m., she spotted a red glow a few blocks over.

Suddenly the glow shot straight up a tree trunk and erupted into a raging fire, spreading quickly through the vegetation, between and behind single family homes. Young, 35, who is working on a degree in urban studies with a minor in sports enterprise management, found herself as one of the first on the scene of a fast-moving blaze.

KIRO TV caught first-responder Ashley Young for an interview shortly after the fire department arrived.There were people already present -- filming the fire with their phones instead of calling 911. Young, a U.S. Air Force and two-time Afghanistan veteran, asked if anyone had called emergency services yet and the answer from the bystanders was "no." Young immediately took charge and her former training took over, gathering information as fast as possible and prioritizing what needed to be done. She directed one person to call 911 and ran towards the house with the tree on fire. 

By now, the towering conifer was fully engulfed and showering embers and burning branches over homes and yards. Young jumped into action, to alert the occupants and help them out to safety. "We were there before fire or police," Young reports. "Without thinking I found myself running through yards to any door I could find, knocking and screaming, ‘Fire, get out, fire!’ "

Residents, who were sleeping, were slow to come to the door. One of the residents brought to safety was a U.S. Army veteran who requires oxygen. Young was especially proud to have helped him. The former Army sergeant shook her hand afterward and thanked her for helping his family. Veterans always remain “brothers and sisters in arms,” even after their service has ended.

Ashley Young poses with Sports Enterprise Management executive director Stan Emert. Young played for the visiting Utah Falconz against the Seattle Majestics with a game-time temperature of 105 degrees. The Falconz scalded the home team 68-8.When asked about her actions, Young said, halfway joking, that "Women's pro tackle football helped with the running." The sport keeps her at peak conditioning, practicing at elevation, in hundred-plus-degree heat in Salt Lake City. As to the bravery reflex, "Well, that was all military." She modestly adds, "I surprised myself. No time to think. Plus, Dad taught me at an early age to always be prepared. You never know when you might find yourself in a serious situation where seconds count. I will continue to help our community whenever I can, service-before-self is a part of being a service member that never leaves you.”

Thanks in part to her flexible schedule at UW Tacoma, Young continues her position as a professional women's football player with the Utah Falconz. She plans a policy/managerial career in professional women's sports.

“Ashley is a disciplined thinker,” said Stan Emert, executive director of Sports Enterprise Management in the Milgard School of Business. “She quickly analyzes a challenge, and then takes action. She is a can-do performer on any field.”

Written by: 
Written by Kathy Adolphsen / July 21, 2021
Photos by: 
Photos courtesy Ashley Young
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communicaitons, 253-692-4536 or