Jenny, you asked us to share some of the good things about being female firefighters... well, one of the nice things I've noticed here at school is that I have a bathroom all to myself!! (It's the LITTLE things in life you treasure...!) All kidding aside, I have been having a blast during my 240 program. I like being able to hang out with the guys, do the same job they do, and still be comfortable with being totally female while doing this job. I love the feeling of knowing that I CAN do a physically demanding job. For me personally, that IS a very rewarding goal/challenge.

I am in school with some awesome guys. They have helped me out tremendously, worked with me, and been willing to be friends. As long as I'm willing to try, work hard, take and make jokes, and never quit, I have never had a problem with anyone involved in the fire/ems field. I'm not sure which of you ladies said it best in another thread, but "Carry your load on your shoulder, not a chip." truly sums up how I try to act.

And... since this thread is *totally* me rambling and simply being in an AWESOME mood tonight... does anyone have a better way to drag a SAR drag dummy out of a building with a webbing strap using more than one hand/arm? Or any tips of the trade on how to start a chainsaw?!?! Other than being mechanically challenged (plus other issues) those are the main problems I've been running into.

So, ladies, have fun! Share your triumphs! Share your joys! Encourage us with your stories of why you love doing this job! Stay safe!!
Brittany

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Replies to This Discussion

Sorry lady, chain saws baffle me too. I think it's all in the wrist action & mine won't cooperate either. But, make sure you turn it on & push the primer button first. I can't stand anything that you have to yank to start. :) Glad you are enjoying your training.
Anyone have trouble with your gloves being HUGE? I find them very clumsy. I have the smallest size they could order, but i can still fold the fingers back over my fingers again. I think my hands are pretty average sized. I wear medium ems gloves but the fire gloves just don't want to stay on....
Thanks!
Put a pair of laytex under them they seem to stay on better, your hands don't get as cold or wet. We use med gloves doing extrication & such and we keep them on the trucks for EMS calls & traffic incidents. They do make XXS fire gloves & they work some better but they are just BULKY. I have problems doing anything with any type of gloves on anyway and I have been wearing them for a LONG time. They also make diferent types of gloves that are a little more expensive than what you were issued most likely but they are really worth it IF you can afford them. My first pair were "fireball", those were REALLY a challenge.
My first set of gear was black cotton duck 3/4 length coat & roll up boots. OMG!! I am Sooooo glad those are not popular anymore!! The gloves have longer fingers than you do & I bet there would be more boot than you have leg :) Darn boots!!
Ummm - probably best you don't comment :) but I know what you are thinking. I never thought about it when I typed that but . . . yeah it does apply.
Huh...the best thing about being a female firefighter....

Well, despite the fact that you have your own bathroom which is totally wonderful! (I always laugh about that when I go to a conference!) I think the best thing I like about being a female firefighter is the reception you get sometimes from you co-workers and fellow firefighters. When you accomplish something they may be doubting you on, the admiration you receive is tremendous. I think I have more respect from my fellow firefighters because they recognize the obstacles I have to overcome and they admire me for always stepping up to the plate and stepping up with a smile on my face....or sometimes grit teeth!

The next best thing is the pride I feel for myself for doing a job which is so personally challenging for me. I love it! I have done training from rope rescue to fire safety education and almost every time I am thinking, "Am I going to be able to do this?" And so far, every time I have been able to step up to the challenge. That makes me very proud of myself. From reading the posts before mine, I am not the only woman who gets this same satisfaction! From reading the adove posts, all of you make me proud to be a woman in the fire service. Please keep up the good work and stay safe!
Carry your load on your shoulder, not a chip!! Yay, that was me! And a great reminder. I went through some pretty shitty stuff a little while back and became a little wee sensitive for a while. All is good now.
I think you will find more threads on the issues, because the good things are a given, the issues are where we need support. It can be tough, it can also be lonely at times, and from time to time, going in to work can be shitty (so glad that's not the case for me anymore... phew), but all in all, this job is incredible.
Why do I like it?
Well, for example, last week we had a hell of a night. Two working fires, back to back, we didn't even get back to the station between. We headed to the first fire (2 alarm) from an MVC, then after running through two air bottles and an hour later, straight to the other, that turned into a 3 alarm. 5 air bottles and more work than I have done at a fire in a long time. lathe and plaster, balloon construction and we played hide and seek with the damn thing for hours. By the end of it I was almost getting a little pissed with it and we showed it who was boss. There were 8 of us pulling a ceiling and tearing down a door frame (the fire was right above an interior door frame at this point blowing straight through two floors and into the roof). THREE of us were ladies!! It was awesome. At one point I had an axe and was taking out the door frame one chop at a time, i wished I was taller... haha... but I was able to open up the top enough to get a hose line in there. Then off to the ceiling, where at one point I managed to get a good pull with a plaster puller an brought down a huge chunk. I worked until I could barely lift my arms anymore and my air alarm started to go off. I went out, couldn't see for shit on my mask, was covered in plaster and sawdust, took my facepiece off and we were told we could pack upand go home. Awesome. Before we left we cleaned up the RIT equipment. I grabbed the RIT bag, that weighs about 70 freaking lbs (it's ridiculous really), carried it to the Chief's car and put it away.
As I was leaving to go to ReHab to get my last fresh bottle and some more water I heard, "Jesus, she works just like a man" and another (who knows me well) said, "Nah, she works like a firefighter!"

I really think that was one of my favourite moments. My feet were aching (because my boots suck), my hands and shoulders were screaming and I was starving (11pm and we hadn't eaten yet), but I felt awesome! Loved it!!!

Now, as for gloves. I honestly cannot remember the name of the gloves I wear. lol. I'm going to check it out and get back to you... our try on gloves came in XXL to XXS and short finger or regular. It was impossible not to be fitted!
Chainsaws - always remember the choke and the compressor button (HUskvarna has a blue one on the right near the pull cord). And practice. Once you hear them sputter, put the choke in and try again. It can be a pain, but have someone show you, repeatedly if necessary. One of our ladies had a hard time starting the saw on scene and someone else had to do it for her, without her asking. Not good.

Dragging a vic, if need be, try the handcuff knot and put both wrists in it. It can hurt the wrists (skin), but if all else fails and you need to get them out, it works. Or wrapping it under the shoulders (around the back with ends coming over the top of the shoulders), this will give you more leverage for sure and will better protect the head.

Just remember ladies. This job is not without it's challenges, either on scene or in the firehouse, but its challenging for a lot of people and for a lot of reasons. The guys have issues with each other as well. If you're struggling, ask for help. Be careful who you trust (that would go for anyone, the fire service is a weird little place sometimes... haha) and don't pay attention to rumours! I'm the only single woman on the department and I've slept with 8 guys so far... so I"m told... lol. AH well.... some will love you and embrace you and others will hate you. you're not likely going to like them either!!! lol!!

Keep working hard ladies... this job is great. If your station sucks, ask for a transfer, it's amazing what it can do for you!!! Always remember why you applied and remember why you want to do a good job, and do it!
I GRADUATED!!!!!! Part of our skills to pass included SAR with dummy drag (found out later of the two stations set up, I got the ridiculously HEAVY one-- and I did just fine!), starting a K12 saw (I'd never started it-- practiced with the chainsaws until I got them, though) and throwing ladders (which I can do, no problems). Other than being FREEZING cold with WIND CHILL I don't even want to think about... it was awesome. I'm still pumped!
Brittany
Congratulations, Brittany!!
YAAAAYYY!!! Brittany, that's awesome! Good for you, is it weird that i'm proud of you!?! hahaha!! Keep that excitement, it's a great feeling, isn't it??
Ladies, thanks so much for your congrats, they are very much appreciated! Liked the story about how "you work like a FIREFIGHTER" Spanner. That's awesome. During school, I was far from excelling at anything we did. I worked hard and got the job done, and I learned how I needed to perform a task, but I did NOT shine, by any means!! But I think what I will remember longer than the pride of graduating from 240 Fire School are the times where I got a compliment from one of my fellow classmates. One of my all-time favorite moments was when one of my classmates looks at me and said, "I have to tell you, you impressed the heck out of me. I came into this class not sure if a woman would be able to do this job, and you proved me wrong." (Now, I also want to say that I NEVER for one moment felt from him that he was thinking this throughout part of class.) He went on to tell me what changed his mind was a skill that I personally walked away from feeling like a failure. We had been doing SAR all day long, three or four scenarios, etc. Me and my partner had repeated one of the scenarios over just because we hadn't done well on the first time, for a variety of reasons. We had been wearing gear and airpacks all day long, and I was almost physically to the point of wanting to lay down and die for about an hour. We straggle back to the main building, and are told we need to line up and get ready for another challange... We were doing relay dummy drags, racing company against company. My heart is sinking to the bottom of my leather boots. I was one of the slowest people to drag the dummy, and it took about every ounce of energy I had left to drag it the last 15 feet. This gentleman told me that this was what changed his mind about women doing this job. "We were all beat, and it was tough for all of us. You never gave up, you never quit, and you did it. That's when I realized that there are lazy women just like there are lazy men."
Someday, my goal is not to just keep trying and never give up... but to actually SHINE at this stuff. To excell at this job, these skills. That I won't be classed or given encouragement merely because I tried it, but because I DID it without a problem. Okay, my turn to sit down and shut up!
Take care and stay safe, ladies!
Brittany
Brittany, hello and try this on a dummy- I was shown this by a guy no less in my FF1&2 class. Take a short pike pole-3-4 ft. Hook the back of the SCBA and pull from the end of the handle walking backwards if you can. I can never start a chainsaw like a guy- I put if on the ground, step into the handle with my foot and use the opposite arm to start the saw. You have to pull fast and hard on the rope. I was "pulling it like a girl" according to the guys but they were right. Try it. p.s. i, too am lucky to be in the firehouse that I am- the guys are pretty good as a rule. i was a volunteer for 8 yrs and was hired as a fulltime FF 2 years ago. ttfn Anita

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