Top 3 firefighting school grads are women

For the first time ever, this year’s top graduates of Toronto Fire Services are women

TORONTO — For the first time on record, the top three students of Toronto Fire Services’ graduating class were women; an accomplishment that speaks to the continuing growth of women serving as firefighters.

Whytney Hooker, 30, who finished first in her class, owned a painting company and worked for the city before committing to firefighting.

“I knew at about 13 I wanted to work in emergency services, but it took until I was 25 for me to actually pursue it,” Hooker told the Star.

Although Hooker had concerns about meeting the physical demand of the job, friends, family and classmates encouraged her to continue.

“I think that there’s a total change in the generation that’s coming in for firefighting and the mentality that women shouldn’t be here has more less been phased out,” Hooker said.

Scott Eyers, who leads the TFS training department, noted that the firefighting culture and career has made drastic changes. “For many years, firefighting was pretty white, Anglo-Saxon and male dominated,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it, in the early ‘90s this was a tough job, a tough environment for women.” 

Katherine Shirriff finished second in the class, only a half a mark below Hooker, and barely above the third top student, Annemieke Struyk.

Shirriff previously studied kinesiology before deciding to become a firefighter. 

“I love being hands on,” said Shirriff. “The team is like a second family. They’re your brothers and sisters.”

The women, according to Eyers, serve as influential role models for other women who are interested in becoming firefighters.

“If there’s a way that we can grow an interest and plant a seed in girls that this is something they might like to do when they’re older, we’re happy to be there,” Shirriff said. 

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