Boosting female participation in firefighting

Friday, 15 December, 2017

Boosting female participation in firefighting

A camp held for teenagers in Canada is aiming to get more girls and women into the firefighting services.

Camp Female Firefighters in Training is a program administered by the City of Hamilton Ontario Canada Fire Department, to address the small numbers of female firefighters in Canada.

Fewer than 4% of Canadian firefighters are women, and in the US, it is only about 4.6%.

During the camp, now in its third year, 16- to 19-year-old campers experience the real-life duties of a firefighter, such as developing emergency preparedness skills, a healthy, athletic approach to the job and a safety-first mindset.

Pike Krpan, founder of Camp Female Firefighters in Training, said that many girls have the drive to become firefighters.

“I tell the girls on the first day that we’ll ask them to try things that might challenge them, even scare them,” she said.

“Of course, we would never ask them to do anything unsafe, but we put them into dark, small places and ask them to find their way out — wearing full gear, navigating through smoke-filled mazes and climbing 90-foot ladders.”

At the most recent camp, 16 girls participated in three days of hands-on, physically and mentally demanding, intense training. Participants donned firefighter gear, including the use of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA); operated hose lines; handled and climbed ladders; carried out search and rescue operations; learned fire communications systems and best practices in fire prevention; conducted simulated medical calls; rappelled down a building for a rope rescue; and received instruction in personal health and fitness management.

“Women are strong — mentally and physically,” said Krpan.

“I saw a [17-year-old] young woman pick a 175-pound [79-kilogram] dummy up from the ground and drag it 50 feet — to the cheers of all her friends.”

Honeywell manufactures a full range of personal protective equipment to fit all firefighters, women included, with garments customised according to individual measurements for chest, overarm, shoulder, back, sleeve, waist, hip, crouch rise and pants inseam.

Krpan gained advanced skills in training and tactics at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC), a week-long intensive experience that she attended in 2015 on a fully paid scholarship from Honeywell and DuPont.

Image credit: © Olson

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