I have had some tough challenges in my short yrs in this career - only 4 1/2 yrs so far. That is a combo of volunteer, part time paid and full time paid. On my old voly dept, it took some time for the guys to get to know me and get used to the fact that a woman now was gonna be around the firehouse and will be running calls with them. Once I "got my feet wet" and they saw on scenes that I could physically do the job, I was just NEW at it, they were cool with me. NOW these same guys are like brothers to me and I talk to them regularly even though I've moved from the area - when I go home, they welcome me with open arms into the firhouse still - just like I've never even left. Some of them even come to my new town I currently live in and visit and wanna see my new FD. They're true brothers to me. My current dept, I've had some tough times. I have to say, i'm not really liked on this dept very much by most of the guys. They don't want me around and they make it very obvious by trying things to intimidate me and trying to get me to quit. I've had things like had my car urinated on in public and been denied some training and been kept on extended probation because my required tasks couldn't get completed because of the lack of training, and I've even been told to my face to watch my back and even told by friends of mine that I should just get used to the fact that I'm not wanted here and deal with it because it'll never change. So, i have to say, i've seen a lot of stuff. Some days are harder to deal with things than others, yet, no matter how hard things get , I REFUSE to give up. After all, why should I give up on something I've worked so hard and long for? My career in Fire/EMS is MY CAREER as well as theirs and i REFUSE to let these men change that in me.
I know what you all are talking about. When I started 13 years ago, I was the first women to be a fire fighter in my department. I started when I was 18 years old, and in the place I grew up. Most of the other fire fighters were friends of my father (he has also been a fire fighter, had to stop when he got diabetes) so they did not say anything to my face, but still I knew what they thougt of me. Since I was in quite good shape, it was very fun to do things a few of the "old timers" didn't have the strenght to doo. (at that time i bench pressed 100 kg) And it was very nice to see the look on their faces :) Still I would say that I had an ok start, at first noone belived in me, but when they saw that I could do the work, then they were ok with it. There were I would say two camps, those who accepted me, and those who had to think about it a few years. But whitout a chief as good as mine, it might have been too hard. I would say that sooner or later they will all have to give in, when they see that you do a good work. Today there is also another woman with us, but at the moment she is studing in another city, so we don't see much of her.
Then I have to add that I found my man at the department. We have now been togheter for over 10 years, and he never had any problems accepting me as a fire fighter. Both of us are now ( I think it's called) division chiefs .(in swedish it's enhetschef)
I love this job!
I can remember when I was doing my Station CPAT and I had to climb the aerial (75 ft.) in full turn out, I had some guys standing behind me making bets that I wouldn't get to the top and "lock out"... I couldn't believe what I was hearing... I bet??? Are you kidding me???!!! Well needless to say not only did I climb and lockout but I did it as fast as I could and without complaint and was smiling when I came down.. That day I didn't buy lunch, the guy who won the bet did...