Eight young women participated in Glendale Fire Department’s inaugural daylong camp geared toward inspiring more female representation in firefighting. The number of participants is quadruple the number of women firefighters currently employed by the city.
“We recognize the value of women in the fire service and want to spread that message to the women who have an interest in the fire service and to those who may have never thought of it as an option for them, it absolutely is,” said Anita Shandi, a spokeswoman for the fire department.
Of the 166 firefighters in Glendale, two are women.
Girls Fire Camp held Saturday at Fire Station #21 gave participants of any gender the opportunity to get a glimpse into what firefighting as a profession is like and, ideally, consider it as a viable career path.
Ranging from 10 and 18 years old, the nine attendees — including one boy — donned 60-pound gear, wielded chainsaws, worked out, learned the basics of search and rescue, and, in a particularly nerve-racking test for anyone who might be afraid of heights, scaled a tall ladder.
While intimidating, the height “did not deter them from reaching to the top,” Shandi said.
Bao-An Nguyen, one of the fire department’s four female ambulance operators, was on hand as one of the camp’s instructors.
At one point, she helped Highland Park resident Amanda Miranda, 14, learn how to control one of the department’s powerful water hoses.
Set to return next year, the camp is part of the fire department’s concerted effort to close what Shandi calls a gender gap in choosing firefighting as a career.
The department “is actively challenging gender stereotypes to encourage women to see the fire service as a career option,” said Shandi, who added that fire officials are are open to holding hands-on events like the camp more often if interest grows.
In addition to the camp, the department is doing outreach in schools and at community events geared toward bringing in more women, Shandi said.