Tired of Being a Sheltered Little Girl

Ok, I'm just so fed up with everyone's opinion about me being a firefighter. My aunt actually said that a girl on the fire department was cute. CUTE?! Is cute standing in the middle of a CRP field on fire with flames 10 ft. high trying to keep it from spreading to a farmer's house or crop fields?? Is cute chomping at the bit to go on a call, dreaming of fighting fires and keeping myself and my brothers on the fire dept. safe??? Maybe it shouldn't anger me, but darn it it really does that someone could have such an ignorant view. Yes, she's family and I would never go off on her, but I tried to politely remind her that I do the same job that all those guys do, that I am their family, and just because they all call me "Sis", does not mean that I am incapable of being a darn good firefighter. I turned down a job because when the potential boss of mine found out that I was a volunteer firefighter going to school to be a paramedic he actually laughed at me! You know just because I'm only 5'3 and have "innocent" blonde hair and green eyes does not mean that I am not a force to be reckoned with. I would love for them to sit down with my chief for just 10 min. and let him tell them that I don't complain, I work as hard as the guys, I show up when I say I will, and I respond to calls even if they're not "interesting". Doesn't that count for something that I have a lot of respect from a wonderful man who has been doing this for 20+ years??? My cousin told me I should give up firefighting because it's not a girl's place. I'm sorry, just because I have the cajones to go into a burning building, or help pull somebody out of a car and you don't, that makes it wrong? I'm sure a lot of other female firefighters/ems personnel would really like to talk with all those people who think that any girl in this world is just someplace they don't belong! GRR!!! I'm not a child anymore, I'm a 22 year old full grown woman and I have the ambition and desire to be in the fire/ems world, why can people just not accept that and be proud??

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Comment by Michael Vito on August 29, 2008 at 2:04am
Hey, Ashleigh. Don't give up what you're doing. And I agree fully to MIke Schlags, don't think of doing the macho stuff or the crazy stuff to prove. Just think - what will I do to contribute to your team. Be a team player and by the end you will be treated among equals. And if the Lord grants you a responsibility, someday few years later, you might be given an honor of taking care of your own team. Here's something to help. Try to buy a book "Fighting Fire" by Caroline Paul - she is a retired San Francisco Fire Department firefighter member of Rescue2. There you will find the hurdles your going through. http://www.carolinepaul.com/other_books.htm
Comment by Mike Schlags (Captain Busy) Retd on August 28, 2008 at 5:37pm
whoa... what an intense post and comments page... the only reason I can tread softly here, and make some comments is because I have earned that right! Why? Because I have three daughters, now ages 18, 20 and 22 as well as all of their friends and I live two different worlds. My personal world at the fire station is male dominated, but only because the staffing at my station is all guys. I've worked other houses with female firefighters and like everyone, there are good ones and bad ones... But then again, look at the guys... There are good ones and bad ones as well. This whole thing about weight and being able to out muscle someone else... I have a totally different perspective on this.

Before even going into this, it stands to reason that just looking at guys for a second, what about all the small stature guys who are firefighters? Do people challenge their ability to do the job because they are not 6'4"?

Most of the women in the fire service that I have met and had the honor to work with are self-motivated and possess both the desire and determination to work this career. So for the most part, considering the intensity of the job and how difficult it is to pass physical agility testing, you get pretty much the cream of the crop from the female firefighters side of things.

Physical strength is certainly important but don't we work together as a team? I'll tell you what, we need to knock off this "I'm stronger than you crap" and work together. Do you have any idea what a pain in the ass it is to fill out the paperwork explaining how this accident could have been prevented? When one of my folks are operating the Jaws or extending a working line, as their Captain, I'm right there next to them and yes, regardless of how strong the firefighter is, I'll be there to help them with the weight should something be heavy. Working as a team, now that's what it's all about.

If you want to talk numbers and statistics here, then look at the majority of fire department responses, they are medical. The only weight issue here is when you have to lift and move folks. We do this as a team, as an engine company. I've had three back surgeries and no matter how big or small you are, physical challenges can hurt you. This is why it's important to trash the macho image and adopt the teamwork image instead. We all have special skills and knowledge that when put together as a team equates to delivering a good product, saving lives.

Final thought here, and this is heartfelt advise Ashleigh, break these rules and you will create more problems in the future. Yes, this is a blog post where you can write down your intimate thoughts to share with the world. This is fine when using this concept for MySpace or Facebook. But not here... The biggest heads up for you is having other female firefighters respond back to you and tell you to stop whining. They know this lesson only to well. Absolutely no one wants to be around someone that snivels, about anything. Here's my rules to keep me out of trouble, break any one of these and it will come back and bite you...

"Don't Complain, Don't Explain, Don't Ever Say Anything Bad About Anyone, and Don't Give Advice Because No One Listens Anyway"

I hope your listening... you simply have to understand that human resources folks, while going through fire candidate applications will look your up and read everything that you have written. I mean everything. Just the post that you put up is enough to trash your career. Please choose your words and what you share in the future with caution. This is a competitive job to begin with, don't lessen your chances of obtaining and realizing your dreams and goals. It's in your hands...

Just focus on learning the job, be nice, be competent and find yourself continuing your growth and development through education. The majority of male firefighters out there consider the physical component of the job to be number one. Do your homework, study hard, take the tests and remember that all those nay sayers at some point will only be able to say one thing to you, and that's "Yes Mam" because you will have promoted through the ranks, using your head instead of your physical strength.

As always, stay safe, enjoy life and remember, "It's not about winning the game but where you go afterwards for pizza!"

MIke Schlags, Fire Captain
Santa Barbara County Fire Department
Comment by Yee on August 27, 2008 at 8:37am
Keep on doing the job and hang in there. Prove them wrong. I had to prove my own fire Chief wrong. He told the guys after a chimney fire I went on at midnight , knowing I had to wake up at 430 in the morning to go to work, that "I was there to start shit." Every girl before me was there to mess with the guys. I admit at the time I was dating a ff from that station, but I strictly kept that away from the station. I told him "when we go in that station to run calls, I'm not your girlfriend. I'm a fellow firefighter and I want you to treat me like one." And he did. But hearing my chief sit there and say "She's here to start shit." Wasn't alright to me. I soon proved him wrong when I was there almost every night running calls, doing my best on the ambulance and engine. One day a strom came through and I was jumping in and out of an engine for 2 hours and his face was no where to be seen. He then realized I'm not just another "firehouse girl" that goes from guy to guy in the department, I'm there to do my job and help just like he is. So keep at it. People will soon realize you're in love with this job as much as the guys are and aren't gonna back down just because someone says "Women don't belong in the fire service.''
Comment by brenda caldwell on August 26, 2008 at 5:20pm
Keep on doing the job you love as do I and you can be proud of yourself. Be safe out there.
Comment by Ashleigh on August 26, 2008 at 5:08pm
Ya know I'm sorry people think this blog was just to whine but blogs are meant for personal thoughts, not to always write profound things to "impress" people! If y'all don't like what I have to say, then why waste your time commenting back? I know there's a lot to prove, and I know I'll always have to work 10 times harder than the guys to earn the same respect they do. As for saying girls should stick to ambulances and using your experience to back that up? That's pretty pathetic. I know I HAVE held a 1.75 line with 150 psi by myself and that doesn't mean I'm on steroids. Thanks for showing how ignorant you are. That makes me glad that I'm in the area I'm in, I get SUPPORT from all the guys around here, not criticism, because I'm not a whiner. But hey, I really don't care what anybody else thinks. So thanks for the comments everyone good and bad.
Comment by tlp507 on August 26, 2008 at 10:45am
I too have to say, quit your whining. You want to know why womwen don't get respect or are accepted as a man? Because individuals like you whine to be equal and the fact of the matter is, we're not men.
Do I agree with the grizzled old pig, "Yank" up there? No. Because he just sounds ignorant. But as far as he goes, there may not be any women where he's from that has been capable of doing the job effectively.
I have been a professional firefighter for over 11 years in the second largest city in the state. My mother was one of the barrier brakers and served for over 20 years on the same department. Is there additional proving that you have to accomplish? Absolutely. But there is no more proving that what any rookie has to perform that comes on the job. Why do we have to prove anything? Because lives are at stake. One day it could be yours. So deal with it.
I work at a station that has an engine, a heavy rescue, and a ladder truck. I rotate on all three rigs and can accomplish all the tasks that are required of me. Sometimes better than the guys that are onthe rig with me. I completed the same physical agility test that all the men did when I was accepted into the academy and when I got out. And by the way, I am not on steroids. I don't even remotely look like I am. I don't claim to be the best person for the job, but I am highly capable of doing the job.

Like all of us here, I love what I do with an absolute passion. It's in my soul. I am not here to prove a point or to prove to ignorant people like "Yank" that I am capable of wearing a badge. I have learned the hard way to shut up because the brothers don't want to listen to whiners. We have them on our department too; men and women alike.
My advice to you is this: prove who you are by living your life for you; do your job because you love it but know that not everyone will love you doing it; show your capabilities by your actions and accomplishments, if you think you're done now and at the top of your game, you are sorely mistaken. Even 'ol "Yank" should be able to admit to you that he has room for improvement or can be better. In the job that we do, the day that you think you are the best and there is no room to learn more or to be better, that's the day you need to go.

You are the only one who you need to answer to. Prove your worth by your actions.
Comment by Marie on August 25, 2008 at 12:11pm
I think that the basis of if someone can do something should not be based on what sex they are but how well they can complete the task. The commenter aboves statement seems like total BS to me. I have used the "50lb spreaders" as well as all the other heavy rescue equipment before and even though I am a rediculously short (at 4'11") woman, I handled myself fine and didnt need help handling the tool. The other two girls and I got our car opened up without any breaks, yet the guys each took at least one.
Comment by Yank2441 on August 25, 2008 at 11:24am
Sorry Ashleigh ,

Maybe there are some woman that give the fire service a bad name but I have only seen one woman that can do the job to the same expectations as "most" of the men I work with. You see most of our guys are hard workers just like yourself but they also can lift a tremendous amount of weight, pull ceilings that are made of tongue and grove, hold on to a 50 lbs spreader by themselves, hold an 1.75" line at 150 PSI by themselves and do so much more. As I said before,
I have only seen one woman who could do all this and she looked like she may have been on steroids! LOL!

At the City of Gaffney (SC) there is a physical agility test that all fire fighters must take to get a job (all except women). Not one female passed the test in the almost 7 years I worked at the City of Gaffney yet they still tried to hire one who then turned the job down. Every item in this test is an item that may be requested of you to do at a fire incident and go as follows: 24' ladder raise, Cutting a 12" ventilation hole with an axe, pulling a 100' section of 2.5" 50 feet, climbing the ladder truck a total of 35', raising a donut rolled 2.5" hose up 20 feet, and carry a high rise pack up three flights of stairs. If a woman passes that test then she has earned her passage into the fire service but until then they should stick to ambulances.

This is just my opinion but my 20+ years in the fire service should mean something.
Comment by Justin Buck on August 25, 2008 at 2:29am
i think its cool that there is girls out there that want to be firefighters and that will do what guys will do. because they can do as much stuff as guys can and some can do better i aint going to lie about. you keep on doing what you like doing, dont let anybody make you change your mind.

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