Hey sisters! I need some help in how to deal with the anti-girl sentiment in the fire service. At my fh I don't have too much hostility. There are some there that believe women shouldn't be firefighters but they usually leave me alone and I just try to prove to them that I can do my job. But in my firefighter 1 class I face alot of anti-girl shit. I am the only girl in my class. And I am small so I have more trouble doing some of the things like throwing a 24 foot ladder. Non of my fellow students really talk with me and most will avoid having to be partnered to do a practical with me. They will help out eachother but I feel alone. I feel very watched by my instructors. Every little mistake I make they will point out. They are always telling me to make sure I be tough. It has gotten so bad that I don't want to go back anymore. The only reason I keep going right now is because my friend says I can't quit. Any suggestions on how to deal with fellow classmates and instructors that are anti-girl?

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Abby, Keep your chin up and give it your all. You want to do this, so don't let anyone's attitude bring you down. There is a place for everyone in the fire service, small or big... and this is supposed to be a TEAM effort, not a single person doing it all. You said most of them try to avoid having to be your partner, what about those who don't? There is always someone who wants to put someone else down, whether they're female or male. Give it your best. I know it is tough to have every mistake pointed out, but take each comment and use it as a stepping stool to make yourself better. I wish I had some practial solution that would help you deal with this, but all I can say is don't let them run you off, or make you quit. School is only so long, and once you're done with that, you can go back to your fire house knowing you did your best, took it to the next level, and you're going back to a place where that hostility isn't as bad. I can tell you from personal experience (though nothing as bad as what you're describing) that the old school guys in my firehouse when I'd been on for 3 years, have really changed their ideas of what women should or shouldn't do. It does get better. So... enjoy what you do, work hard to be the best you can be, and keep your chin up and DO this.
Maybe that is the point, maybe they don't want you to come back, or maybe they are seeing if you will tough it out. It sucks and as far as I'm concerned it's wrong, but you are not going to change their mindset by complaining about it, all you can do is keep working hard and showing them you can do it. Stand up, volunteer to do things first and just be a forward thinker, you aren't going to be around these particular individuals for the rest of your life, push through and do the work.
I would suggest, if you are having trouble with a 24 foot ladder, to maybe find a way to get stronger, hit the weights (but don't make your muscles tired and sore for when you have class). I was faced with the test of extending the bangor ladder by myself. It takes 6 people to comfortably put it up, and usually two guys pull the halyard to extend it to it's full 50 feet (it's the ladder with the stabilization poles). One of the guys made a joke, "Are you going to extend it yourself??" then the rest joined in and made a bit of a deal about it... so off I went. Another test passed. It's going to happen all the time, not that they want you to fail, more they want to know they can count on you. Keep working and keep improving and what will they have to complain about??! :)

Head down and chin up.. keep at it!
Abby don't give up. That is what they want. Partner with the one's that like you and put your all into it. If they comment on something gone wrong make it right, make it a possitive thing. Do not show they are getting to show them you have drive and you nerver give up. tThings will get better.
Thanks so much for the replies. I have found there are a couple guys that are willing to help me in my class. There is one guy who is also very small and is having some trouble and he is always giving tips on how to do things. He's like a breath of fresh air! Thanks so much everyone... I'll keep going... head down and chin up
Go to class and be confident.. learn your stuff .. I know alot of men who have trouble throwing up a 24 foot ladder .. Start to blend with the guys that are supportive to you.. Never make the face of I can' do it... Let the instructors watch that is their job know your stuff practice at home take a pack home if you can...... You can do it.. The rest of us women are behind you ... Expect that on here some day soon we will have ourself a firemen... so get to it Abby,,,
Ive never had this problem thank god. at least so far i havnt. It is harder being a women in a "mans world" thats why in order for us to get respect we have to earn it twice as much as the any of the guys.. my suggestion is to prove to all of them that you can do anything they can do. My instructors especially one in particular have always pushed me harder than the guys in my class because they want me to do as well if not better than the guys. But whatever you do dont quit that will just prove what theyve thought all along.
Thanks again for all the input everyone! Thank God I ran into a instructor that really helped me and wouldn't let me be anything less then my best. Class started getting easier and I was able to just ignore the comments and prejuidices. With the help of you all and that instructor and another friend in the class, I made it through and even started enjoying it. At least usually. I tested out this last Thursday. I made it through! Thanks so much sisters!
Told yea congrat for a job well done..
Great job, Abby!! Now it's my turn... I start 240 FF school on the 14th. I think I will be the only female in my class, which might make things interesting. Sooo... hopefully in 7 weeks I will be a full-fledged firefighter!
The only thing you can do is tough it out and graduate. No instructor is ever not proud of any of their students when they see that they got through it and succeeded. I had the worst fire class...they called me names, played really creul jokes on me, ect. None of the guys thought I could do it and all of the instructors were very skeptical. There are some things I wasn't great at, just like you, but by the end of it all and final practicals I had everything down. On graduation day they shook my hand just like everyone else, told me they were proud, and that I had impressed them. The fire service is a constrant struggle to prove yourself for women, and you are always going to have someone who doesn't want you there or someone who doesn't think you can do it. Don't EVER quit because a group of a$$ holes gives you a hard time.
Well, Ladies... week one is on the books, and week two is almost over as well. Whew. I refuse to think about week three until Sunday evening. Week 3 is Search and Rescue Week... I am keeping up, so far, but I feel like I'm the weakest link on my Company. I refuse to quit, and I am working hard to get to the point where I'm not the weakest link, but actually an asset. We've had a two tough days so far-- once was the "March of Death" (SCBA's, full gear, up and down 4 flights of stairs until our air runs out), and the second was hose evolution day. My knees are still raw... (that was yesterday). Sorry if I'm just rambling, ladies. I am the only girl in my class of 25 students, and the guys are awesome. They're being helpful, and I feel like they all want to see the entire class (including me) suceed at this. I am loving this, and I am loving feeling myself get into better and better shape, and able to do this. I just have to keep telling myself that even if I'm not the best at this now, I WILL BE by the end of class. I may not know how to do this, or do it well, but I WILL!! Take care and be safe, Ladies!!
Ladies, I am going to tell you a story. This is pretty long but I will try not to make it boring.

I am now almost 50 yrs old. When I was 14, I wanted to be a fire figher. I FINALLY became a firefighter in 1986. My buddies started in the 70s when "girls" couldn't be fire fighters. BUT - they let me wash trucks & hoses & clean cobwebs & windows & toilets & scrub floors & I did it because @ least they let me do that much. I carried equipment & water & supported my FD in every way I could including fund raising & being a member of the "laides" auxiliary. Maybe that was discrimination or anti-female but it was how it was back then and I thought it was worth the effort. I have been married to a firefighter for the last 30 years which in itself is almost as challenging as being a FF.

My basic training class started with 7 women. I was the only one to complete the class & pass the test. Some of the men didn't finish either.

Soon after I completed my training I was asked to be a Junior leader because I had the time & the inclination to do it. I loved it and I am still proud of them because my first jrs are now in their mid 30s & most of them are still fire fighters. My department had 15-20 junior fire fighters (boys & girls) & 6 or 7 female members @ that time. Other departments teased us that our house was run by women & children. Funny that after all this time we are still discussing both women in the fire service & Junior (cadets/explorers - what ever you want to call them) members.

On one particular fire, a mutual aid call, my partner & I were probably the 3rd crew in on a structure fire. They kept chasing the fire but we put it out. When we came out & found our chief to report to him, the chief of the other department was telling him what great fire fighters he had and that he should be proud. Of course my chief told him that he was quite proud of his fire fighters. We were still in gear but as we started taking off our equipment & removed our helmets the other chief's jaw dropped with his eyes as big as saucers & said "They are women!!" He wasn't accusing but in awe that we went in & got the job done even though we were women. My chief grinned & said, "Yea they are definitely women & my girls just put your fire out." He turned to us & winked & said "Good job ladies, now lets load up & go home." That story got around the county pretty quickly.

The brush fire season that year was terrible. Our county was declared a disaster area & the women & children fought a lot of wild land fires & saved several houses & barns from burning, not only in our area but all over the county on mutual aid calls. We fought fire every day for nearly a month. After that our department gained respect from the surrounding depts & many of them allowed women to join for the first time. Over the years female members have come & gone through our department. @ this point I am the only female fire fighter, there are a couple of associate members who are women. I'm used to being the only woman in the room in training or in a meeting. After almost 23 yrs I'm used to hangin' out with the guys but I don't just hang out with them much. As the Safety Officer & now the secretary I usually have other things to get done.

My point is: If you want to be a fire fighter, do it! You will learn skills that you might not be strong enough or tall enough to do the way the men do but you will find a way to get it done. You might need to do some exercises to improve your strength particularly in your upper body & legs. Never make an excuse when you are given a task. If you aren't able to do it say: I can't reach that by myself or I am not able to lift that on my own, I need a partner. But always do your best to get the job done. That is what it is about. All new FFs have to prove themselves, male or female.


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