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Celebrating International Women’s Day in the fire service

During a month dedicated to recognizing the experiences, nuance and unique perspective women provide, FireRescue1 takes a look at how women have impacted the fire service

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Lieutenant Claudia Rudisill, Firefighter Talia Cholach, and Firefighter Kara Stover took the initial attack line off of Engine 5-1 into a three-alarm dwelling fire during a call in September 2023.

Alpha Fire Company

It is Women’s History Month, and March 8 is International Women’s Day. According to a 2020 study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 9% of all firefighters – both career and volunteer – are female. That number is down from 11% in 2018.

Despite making up a small portion of fire service members, women have climbed the ladder, both literally and figuratively, and made a lasting impact on the industry. Additionally, fire leaders across the country are looking to make changes to policies, logistics and traditions that are inclusive of all genders.

Take a look at some of the incredible achievements and advancements made by and for women in the fire service over the last year, from the multiple programs introducing young women and girls to fire careers, to the retirement of the FDNY’s first female rescue company member after 27 years of service. And be on the lookout for more barrier-breaking stories in the year ahead.

1. Pa. FD’s first all-woman initial attack crew marks a turning point in its 124-year history

A trio of Alpha Fire Company volunteers got plenty of attention this fall after the first all-woman initial attack crew in the 124-year history of the fire company, but it’s not likely to be the last.

When Centre Region Fire Director Shawn Kauffman joined the State College fire company 35 years ago, he said there was just one woman firefighter there. There are now 12 Alpha volunteer firefighters who are women, he said. That includes Lieutenant Claudia Rudisill and firefighters Kara Stover and Talia Cholach — two Penn State students and one recent graduate — who made history at the scene of the Sept. 21 College Township fire.

The movement of more women firefighters isn’t just happening in State College, Kauffman said — more women are volunteering at fire stations across the country.

“For us, it’s becoming the norm rather than an unusual event,” Kauffman said. “As we celebrated this one, I told the company we probably won’t ever do that again; it’s so normal for us, it’s not going to be an odd thing.”

2. Calif. tribal FD recruits 4 women for the National Park Service’s Women in Fire program

The Yurok Fire Department was selected to train four female firefighters for the National Park Service’s forward-looking Women in Fire Program, the tribe announced this week.

“It is a huge privilege to train these firefighters for the Women in Fire Program,” Yurok Fire Chief Rod Mendes said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to providing four Native American women the skills and experience they need to acquire good-paying jobs with tribal, federal or state wildland fire departments.”

The program gives participants a leg up in a career in wildland firefighting.

“It is the goal of this program to recruit, train, and offer exposure to multiple aspects of wildland fire in addition to exposure to the planning and implementation of prescribed fire projects,” Redwood National Park fire management officer Rick Young said.

3. Conn. FD’s first female firefighter hopes to be an example to other women

In December, Samantha Trayer was sworn in as the Allington (Connecticut) Fire Disctrict’s first female firefighter.

“It’s not as scary as it looks,” said Samantha Trayer, the district’s first female firefighter and EMT. During the ceremony, her mother, Muzz Trayer, pinned her with badge number 50, coincidentally the same as her recruit number in the academy.

Allingtown Fire Chief Michael Terenzio, who was hired in 2020 to lead the department, said it was included in his five-year plan to introduce more diversity to the force. After Trayer applied to the consortium, Terenzio said, the department decided to hire her. It was a decision that Terenzio said paid off.

“She finished at or near the top of her academy,” he said.

Before applying to the fire service, Trayer, 32, worked for years as a marriage and family therapist with an emphasis on eating disorders and family trauma. She said mental health is her passion, and she is eager to start a new role that she views as “more hands-on” and offers an occupational use of her athletic background.

Trayer said that although the fire service is “a male-dominated field,” she hopes her story serves as an example to other women.

“They can do it,” she said.

4. Camp Fury celebrates 14 years of empowering girls to join the fire service

In 2009, two Arizona fire training chiefs decided to create a camp to introduce girls to careers in fire and emergency services: Laura Baker was then-training chief for Tucson Fire and Cheryl Horvath was with Northwest Fire-Rescue. With the help of grant funding, the chiefs created Camp Fury (the first year called “Fire Camp”), which served 14 high school-aged girls that first year.

Fast forward to 2024 and Camp Fury is still going strong, having served hundreds of girls across the country who are interested in careers within emergency response and law enforcement.

5. Texas event introduces women to careers in wildland firefighting

Texas A&M Forest Service hosted the third annual Sisters in Fire event Sept. 30 at Worth Ranch, a Longhorn Council BSA property. Thirty-five young women between the ages of 13 and 18 from 22 Texas counties and one Oklahoma county attended the event.

“The Sisters in Fire program was created to introduce young women to wildland firefighting and natural resource careers,” Emily Mitchell, Sisters in Fire Incident Commander, said in a news release. “This year we had women from across the state of Texas and one from Kansas who are introducing their professions and passions to the young women of Texas.”

6. ‘Time is precious’: FDNY’s Regina Wilson prioritizes her purpose

Regina Wilson was working in the accounting office at a utility company when she attended an event called Black Expo in New York City. As she roamed among the various vendors of clothes, shoes, art and other offerings, she noticed a table being staffed by members of the FDNY.

“I was talking to a female firefighter,” Wilson recalls. “She was telling me about the job, and she told me that there were not many black firefighters or women.” Wilson was intrigued and curious. She signed up to receive further information but “I didn’t really take it too seriously after I left the table.”

But those who were recruiting her did take it seriously.

Today, Wilson is a 24-year veteran of the FDNY and past president of the United Women Firefighters (UWF) group. She’s also in her second term as president of the Vulcan Society, an organization that advocates for Black firefighters – the first woman to hold that position in the organization’s 83-year history.

“The United Women Firefighters and the Vulcan Society were the two groups that stuck with me and let me know that they wanted me as part of the department; they really invested in me,” Wilson said. “These people all believed in their profession and what they do, and they were trying to share it with me. I thought I should at least take some time to look into it. That’s what convinced me to do it, and I haven’t looked back since.”

7. FDNY’s first female rescue company member retires

FDNY’s first female rescue company member retired last year after serving for 27 years.

Lt. Adrienne Walsh hugged her colleagues in a video posted by News 12 Brooklyn.

“I thank everyone I worked with over the years,” said Walsh, as dozens of fellow firefighters saw her off. “You taught me well, made me laugh, and I will miss you all terribly.”

This article, originally published on March, 2020, has been updated.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.