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August 6, 2013

Firefighting Summer Camp Seeks Female Recruits

by Elizabeth Jones

Fewer than four out of every 100 firefighters are women, according to national statistics, but Arlington County is making a strong effort to turn the numbers around by running weekend camps showing girls that firefighting can be a rewarding career.

Many women don’t think they have the strength and stamina for the labor intensive job, but women like Captain Tiffanye Wesley and Andrea Kaiser-Goodine disagree.

“19 years ago when my parents didn’t even think it was possible, when my parents asked, ‘Why would you want to do such a dangerous job,’” said Captain Wesley. “And when my friends, they said the same, ‘You are much too small. You don’t have enough weight to do the job,’” Wesley continued. “I said in my mind, I said anything that I want to set my mind to, I’m going to do.”

And she has. Climbing the ranks where there are even fewer women, Wesley is now ranked Captain II at Arlington County Station 4 Fire Department.

Neither woman knew growing up they wanted to pursue firefighting careers. That’s why they agreed to help recruit and instruct young women.

“It’s been the best choice of my life… I do. I love it,” said Kaiser-Goodine who started out reporting for a TV news station where she was eventually introduced to the idea of a firefighting career.

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Trainee Tara (r) practices the PASS method for using a fire extinguisher: Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle, Squeeze the handle, and Sweep back-and-forth at the base of the fire.

Trainee Tara wrote to NewsHour Extra about her experience:

As soon as I heard about this on the radio, I knew this camp was for me. To me, this sounded like a fun way to experience what firefighters do. Personally, I have always been interested in firefighter/police/detective work. So this might be my future career. My favorite parts were getting to hang out and spend time with the firefighters, watching the live fire, and of course, riding in the fire truck.

It is really intimidating that only four percent of firefighters are girls. What people don’t realize is that if a girl sets her mind to something and she believes in herself, then she can accomplish anything! Judith Livers Brewer, the first female firefighter, is one of my role models–she did something no other woman had ever done.

I learned that after firefighters put out a fire, they feel really good about themselves because they know they’ve helped someone. I also learned that it’s not an easy job and that the female firefighters set their minds to do their jobs well.

Female firefighters have many challenges, such as scheduling family time and commitments around their work schedules. They also have to overcome the stereotypes of being women in a very physical and dangerous job. Even though they know it’s a dangerous job, they still love it!

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