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Gender equality has been a long and winding yellow brick road for many women in the fire service. They work hard, train hard, and study hard, but no matter how many times they click their heels and wish for a fighting chance, progress has been painfully slow.

Is progress being made? If the ladies I meet at FDIC and other events are any indication, I’d say yes. I’m not saying that everything is magical and rosy in every department, but progress has been made – despite the ol’ boy network of flying monkeys.

Metaphorically speaking, the Wizard of Oz theme is the perfect vehicle for this commentary. Among other things, a lack of heart, brains and courage have been some of the knuckle-dragging complaints by men who see women only for their… shall we say, more gender specific qualifications. That women have no place on the fire ground, whether on the rig or in the command vehicle, is just ridiculous – and Neanderthal thinking!

As was said about Molly Williams, the first recorded female fire fighter in U.S. history, “(she’s) as good a fire laddie as many of the boys”.  I say, “You Go, Girls!”


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Comment by Shannon Kobe on March 28, 2012 at 9:13pm

A few years ago we supported a female fire capt from a large dept in the eastern part of the united states.  She was a 22 year career fire capt who had a complete sequale into ptsd depression and was taken out of service and off line.  We stay'd with her by email and phone for three years of her struggles to come back from the abyss of depression and suicide.  She made it back enough and then we went on to help her apply for her disablility benefits with her union conract and her local city.  She got that.  Close to 5000.00 per month.  Sadly this firefighterveteran had no help from her local good old boys club yet she was able to do the outreach and ask us for help.  Her husband is a vietnam veteran and we have slowly been able to balance her in her retirement disability.  She is very much loved and cherished as a part of our firefighterveteran network and lived an awesome career number of 1st done by a lady in the fire service.  Do we think they are equal...hell yes....Mighty fine ....  they may think differently but they get the job done with attitude and that friends is what I call courage....bring em on.....

Shannon Pennington 

North American Firefighter Veteran Network

on the web;

Comment by Paul Combs on March 15, 2012 at 7:50am

Thanks for weighing in, Everyone - I appreciate your comments!

Comment by John K. Murphy on March 11, 2012 at 9:22pm

Spot on illustration about women’s struggles in our fire service. Some of the examples of hostility and bias will chill your sense of equality. You would not allow those affronts to happen to your mother or sister or daughter at home, then why allow that at your "home" at the fire station. This industry needs to take the lead on equality and it's not that difficult. We need to get out of the mindset that only "men" can do this job. How wrong is that?

Comment by Hanna Carson on March 11, 2012 at 2:46pm

Awesome illustration, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with painted nails and makeup in the firehouse!  John, you're right on about how guys treat the women in the firehouse differently than they would their own family.  I'm the same age as some of these guy's daughters, and it amazes me some of the things they think are acceptable to do/discuss around me.  There certainly is progress being made, but the we aren't near the end of the yellow brick road yet.

Comment by Cristian Guzman on March 10, 2012 at 8:51pm

Great illustration. I'm very proud to say that I've worked side by side with the womens of my firehouse, and they have proved time and time again, that they deserve a place on the fire ground.

Comment by Stephanie McKinley on March 9, 2012 at 11:24am

I ABSOLUTELY agree that being a female firefighter doesn't mean you have to give up your femininity.  So I wear makeup and paint my nails...but I'm fully willing to trash all of that to do what needs to be done!  P.S. Thanks for your post my dear ;~)

Comment by Sam Bradley on March 8, 2012 at 11:02pm

Bobby, let me know if you do get out this way!

Comment by Sam Bradley on March 8, 2012 at 11:01pm

Paul, I love your last comment, but trying to be pretty in a set of turnouts is darned near impossible!

Comment by John Hart on March 8, 2012 at 10:34pm

I appreciate your statements Paul, and as a husband of a career FF/Paramedic who appears as Mrs. September in the 2012 America's Female Firefighter Calendar I especially appreciate your additional comments!

Comment by Bobby Halton on March 8, 2012 at 5:39pm

I miss you too Sam, Paul really did a great job with this one, I hope to get back to California soon.  And Shauna you nailed it being a firefighter doesn't mean you have to give up your femininity.

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