Women Fire Fighters Yes!

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A walk in the forest on a quiet morning can create a feeling that time has stopped, life is magical and the future hopeful. It can be the best therapy at little or no cost.

They are worth preserving at any cost.

There are a number of factors that are leading to the unnecessary massive destruction of forest acreage as a result of out of control type one fires. Wildfires need three things to burn: ignition, fuel, and the right climate.

On August 28, 2013, News.nationalgeographic.com reported the large wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park has already consumed more than 184,000 acres, and shows no signs of slowing down. The blaze, which has been dubbed “Rim Fire,” is now the largest fire in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and one of the largest in California’s history.

The Rim Fire is one of more than 30 blazes currently churning across the West. And a combination of higher temperatures, untamed underbrush, less rain, and more developments in the region means that the number and intensity of wildfires is likely to increase in the coming years, says Don Wuebbles, a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois.

“This probably is the new normal,” he says.

The numbers certainly back him up: Wildfires are roaring through twice as many acres per year on average in the U.S. than they were 40 years ago, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told the Senate in June, 2013.

The Huffingtonpost.com on September 28, 2013 added, just four weeks after the most intense day of California’s Rim Fire – when wind and extremely arid conditions created a conflagration that turned 30,000 acres of dense conifers and oaks into a moonscape – life is returning as the forest begins to repair itself.


States in the West have already seen temperatures jump. Over the past three decades, Arizona—which saw huge wildfires earlier this season—has seen its ten-year average temperature increase by 2.3ºF, compared to 1.6ºF for the entire U.S. And California—currently home to ten blazes—is experiencing the driest calendar year so far on record, says Christopher C. Burt, the author of Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book and the weather historian for Weather Underground.

As fuels increase and temperatures rise, the number of people moving to areas that border wildlands—a location called a WUI, short for wildland-urban interface—also continues to increase. The number of housing units within half a mile of a national forest, for instance, grew from 484,000 in 1940 to 1.8 million in 2000.

Bbc.co.uk news on October 20, 2013 shares news from another part of the world. Australian firefighters battling destructive bush fires in New South Wales are preparing for worsening conditions in the next few days.

The return of hot weather and strong winds is expected to fan the flames – the worst in the state for a decade.

About 200 homes have already been destroyed, and some fires are still raging out of control. Hundreds of people have been left homeless.

The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, has been the worst-hit region. More than 37,000 hectares (91,400 acres) have already been ravaged by fire in the state in the past several days.

Officials say that 15 blazes remain out of control.

Smoke and ash from the wildfires have blanketed the Sydney skyline.

Emerging from the smoke, haze and ashes is a growing new crop of female fire fighters.

Pbs.org according to Women in the Fire Service, as of 2005, there were approximately 6,160 women career firefighters in the United States and 28 fire departments with women as their top-level chief.

Arlington County, Virginia wants more female firefighters. The fire department there has even set up a camp to inspire potential recruits. Donning helmets and matching camp shirts, teenage girls line up to watch a demonstration: A model room with furniture is ablaze.

The glass ceiling in this department was broken by Judy Brewer in 1974, when she became the country’s first full-time female firefighter.

The following urban fire departments (more than 75 career personnel) have the highest percentages of women firefighters: Madison, Wisconsin: 14.8%; Boulder, Colorado: 14%; Clay County, Florida: 13.8%; San Francisco: 11.7%; Montgomery Co., Maryland: 10.2%. However, several large urban departments have no women at all.

Teresa Deloach Reed is currently Fire Chief for the City of Oakland. She is the first woman to be named chief in the 142-year history of the Oakland Fire Department. As a 22 year resident of Oakland, Chief Reed began her career as a San Jose firefighter in 1986.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2010, less than 4 percent of U.S. firefighters were women.

The larger the fire, the lower the number rating. Type 3 fires are larger, perhaps hundreds of acres, requiring more resources and more time. Type 1 fires are in a class unto themselves. They are the most complex, the most destructive and most expensive to extinguish. They require the most resources and the most time. They are the fires that you see burning across your television screen on the nightly news.

As such, only 17 people nationwide are qualified to manage them. They are the elite of the elite. Jeanne Pincha-Tulley is one of those 17 — the first and, until recently, only woman to attain that rank shares NPR.org.

Pincha-Tulley started firefighting like most young men and women do — at the bottom, on a hand crew. At 19 years old, she got on a crew in Washington’s Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest outside of Seattle.

When she started her fire career back in 1979, that wasn’t the case. “You used to see a 20,000- to 30,000-acre fire twice in your career,” she says. “Now you see them twice in a month.”

Wildfiretoday.com shares Beth Lund is one of two female Incident Commanders on Type 1 Incident Management Teams, the largest and most capable teams that run large incidents. Jeanne Pincha-Tulley is the other.

Ms. Lund’s Type 1 Team has been managing the Beaver Creek Fire near Ketchum, Idaho which is one of the fires getting a lot of national media attention due to the number of acres burned, 111,000, and the movie stars homes that have been threatened by the fire.

As the future appears to a brighter one for female fire fighters, Female Competition International would like to thank and pay tribute to those who paved the way in the past.

Wikipedia notes the first known female firefighter of the United States was a slave from New York named Molly Williams, who was said to be “as good a fire laddie as many of the boys,” and fought fires during the early 1800s. In the 1820s, Marina Betts was a volunteer firefighter in Pittsburgh. Lillie Hitchcock was made an honorary member of the Knickerbocker Engine Company, No. 5. in San Francisco in 1863, and fought fires for some years after.

The first known female fire chief in the U.S. was Ruth E. Capello. Ruth Capello was born in 1922 and became fire chief of the Butte Falls fire department in Butte Falls, Oregon in 1973. She died at the age of 70 in 1992.

Sandra Forcier, the first known paid female firefighter (excluding forest firefighting) in the U.S., began working in North Carolina in 1973. She was a Public Safety Officer, a combination of police officer and firefighter.

The first female head of a career fire department, Chief Rosemary Bliss in Tiburon, California, became fire chief in 1993.

On a sad note, wwltv.com reported on August 31, 2013, Kathy Wilkerson, the city of New Orleans’ first female firefighter, died of complications from cancer, the fire department announced. She was 57.

Wilkerson entered the fire department ranks in 1992 becoming the first female firefighter in the city’s history.

“She broke the barrier for females coming into the fire service in New Orleans,” said the department in its statement.

To qualify to become a fire fighter, the rules have changed. The website i-women.org lends some great insight.

If you were a city firefighter in the 1960’s, your job usually consisted mostly of taking care of the fire engines and the station and, when there was a fire, going to it and putting it out. Your protective gear — probably a canvas or rubber coat, thigh-length boots, and a heavy leather helmet with no eye protection — would now be considered primitive and unsafe. If anyone exercised on duty, it was usually more out of boredom or a personal desire to be stronger, and the workouts were usually limited to lifting weights someone had brought in from home.

By the 2000’s, almost all of this had changed. Firefighters in most fire departments now take part in public education, fire inspections, and other forms of community outreach. Almost all fire departments provide emergency medical response at the basic level, and many offer full-service paramedic care and patient transport. Special units of firefighters are trained to handle hazardous materials (“hazmat”) incidents, fast-water rescue, dive rescue (SCUBA), and technical (high-angle and collapse) rescue. Arson investigation, fire code enforcement and fire safety education often form separate divisions within the fire department. A wide range of community-service careers has replaced the limited choices of a generation ago.

The field has become increasingly professional. It’s not unusual for firefighters to have at least a two-year degree in fire science or some other field, and chiefs of most major departments are expected to have master’s degrees. Fire departments, colleges and specialized training programs provide ongoing education in command and management skills for company officers and chiefs. Promotions in many fire departments are based on the employee’s performance in a promotional assessment center instead of, or in addition to, more traditional types of tests and interviews.

Women considering the fire service may be discouraged if all the firefighters they know or see are men. It may seem that, even if the door isn’t officially closed to women, no woman could ever be enough like a male firefighter to be really good at the job. If you are considering becoming a firefighter, be aware that there are many ways to be a good firefighter, and they don’t necessarily require you to be male or just like a man.

FCI encourages you to apply. The beauty of one of the most sacred places on earth can use your help.

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Sources : Wikipedia, www.i-women.org/women, www.pbs.org, www.npr.org, oaklandnorth.net, www.kqed.org, www.nu.edu, oaklandwiki.org, www.wwltv.com, www.usd116.org, wildfiretoday.com, www.wjla.com, news.nationalgeographic.com, www.bbc.co.uk, www.livescience.com, teebhabzie.wordpress.com, www.huffingtonpost.com, photos thanks courtesy Wikimedia Commons, City of Oakland http://www2.oaklandnet.com.