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Women in The Fire Service…The Way I See it

Over the years, I have read some pretty heinous stuff that firefighters have put their supposed “Sister” firefighters through. Examples can be found if you search for them. I am not going to share any particular incidents. Many of these incidents have been career enders and/or demotions for those involved.

Every time I read about a female firefighter being treated unfairly in the firehouse I cringe. I simply cannot stand it.

I have heard from women who are firefighters over the years who look for assistance in their departments due to situations they have been put in simply because they are women. I often offer my thoughts with the understanding that I do not have both sides of the story, yet I feel it is best to offer some ideas of finding solutions.

The other day, I sat down to write this article and imagined a very long article. I had many thoughts I wanted to write. Today, I finally have a chance to sit down and put my thoughts on the computer…it was clearer thinking and I realized that it would be more simple and to the point.

Your “Sister” firefighters should be treated as such. Whether you are paid, volunteer, or paid on call…Whether you are a firefighter, hold rank, or are a Fire Chief.

I guess I look at it like this…

What if my wife were a firefighter? What about my mother? What about my sister? What about my daughter? How would I want them to be treated?

That doesn’t mean that everyone has to be best friends. We are a family…some of us get along better with others. I get that.

If you read about women firefighters who have been treated unfairly, hatefully, and even resulted in criminal charges you will find that most have a common thread…”sexual harassment”. Check out this article if you would like to see examples.

woman firefightersI say again…How would you like your wife, mother, sister, or daughter to be treated if they were a firefighter?

I know firefighters…You don’t mess with their family. So then, why is it so easy for some to treat female firefighters so badly. I think this may bother me so much is because we have a woman on our crew. She is treated like the rest of us firefighters. We all get a long, have a good time, and get the job done. I cannot imagine what it would be like if my crew were treating her badly because she is a woman. I can tell you, I would not stand for it.

Let us be clear though. I am not saying EVERY woman has what it takes to be a firefighter…just as every man does not. I leave that up to our testing procedures for hiring recruits. I trust that our department will only hire those able and willing to be firefighters. I cannot control the process. I can control how our firefighters are treated…starting with me.

Comments - Add Yours

  • Firepup32

    Awesome article, brother! You made an excellent point about not every women OR man has what it takes to do this job. As a female pro firefighter with 14 years +, I can honestly say that for everyone (both genders) when you are at the beginning of your firefighting career, there is a "proving" period. And rightly so. As a firefighter (not as a female) I expect the guys in my crew to have my back, our lives depend on it. Just like they expect me to have theirs. They CANNOT do that unless they are 100% sure that I have theirs! And the only way to do that is to prove that you can do what is and was expected of you when you got hired. I can also say that I have never had any type of harassment or backlash thrown at me, EVER! (That's at three different fire departments in two different states-not volunteer) I truly believe that I was never blackballed for two reasons: I came into this job/career knowing what I was getting myself into. I brought my "A" game with me and I was able to do (and did) what was required of any FIREFIGHTER (not female firefighter). The other reason, and many will disagree with me I am sure, is that I never got offended. Again, I knew what I was going up against and I didn't walk around with a chip on my shoulder. Meaning, I didn't make a mountain out of a molehill. For example, If they had playboys sitting around the bathroom (this was before that kind of stuff was banned), I didn't go all crazy. I would bring it out to them and start flipping the pages and saying,"those are real, those aren't". Oh yup! Hers are real! And they would usually just bust out laughing. Do I always like having to do that? No, I don't. Sometimes I hate it, BUT they will never know that. Why? Because I really love what I do for a living, and to be honest, I really love the guys I work with (now and also the ones in past departments) They are/were my brothers, and they always will be. But, at that moment, I am living in a mans world. Remember, as a female, you are coming into a (mostly) male dominanted field. They do not need to acclimate to you, YOU need to acclimate to them and do the job the way that they expected you to do it when they hired you. It would be like a guy becoming a hairdresser in a salon of 8 women and then getting offended when they talk about tampons and pregnancy. You just can't get upset about when you are the one choosing the environment you are working in.Unfortunately, if that is hard for you to do then this is not the job for you! Now, with all this being said, I do realize that you have places where, no matter what you do, you are going to get harrassed and I can't imagine how awful that must be. If this is happening to you, let me give you my two cents on the subject ( mind you , it's probably worth exactly that!). I can't say that it works with everyone all the time, but it might be worth a shot.

    Usually when this happens it's just like elementary/middle school. They are testing you. Seeing where your weak spots are. And 9/10 there will usually be one guy who is a ring leader. Find the ring leader . Get him when he is alone and confront him. I mean really confront him,just like a man would. (are you seeing a trend here?) Get in his personal space and, while never breaking eye contact, explain to him that he doesn't have to like you, but there needs to be a mutual level of respect between the two of you. Tell him if he is unable to do that due to his maturity level, then you will have to take the matter on up the food chain and you don't want to do that, but you will do what you have to. But always talk to the harasser first before you take it to anyone.