This story resonates with me for a couple reasons.
First, as a fire chief I believe that we must do more, a lot more, to recruit and retain women as career and volunteer firefighters.
I realize this position might not be fully embraced throughout the U.S. fire service. But it seems blatantly obvious that, with slightly more than 50 percent of the U.S. population identified as female in the 2010 Census, we are woefully behind in bringing (and keeping) our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces and granddaughters onboard.
I guess I was fortunate that, from the beginning of my volunteer/career service, I worked alongside plenty of women who were excellent firefighters, company officers, medics and chief officers. Do I know women who have struggled with the job requirements? Sure. And I also know plenty of men who were equally challenged.
The second reason is, admittedly, personal. I have a daughter who, sometimes to my chagrin, exhibits many of the character traits that also define a good firefighter. She's inquisitive, physical, courageous and a team player. Wouldn't it be nice if, by the time she's ready to volunteer or choose a career, she gets the information, preparation and support she needs to be successful?
Through initiatives like this one, we have a real opportunity to help the next generation of women firefighters identify and prepare for a fire and emergency services career.
Frankly, I think it's a matter of survival; how can we expect to progress — in the 21st Century — without authentically accepting more than 50 percent of our population.