Women in the Fire Service, Inc.
Bulletin Board/Guestbook Archives
October-December 2002

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 Posted 12/24/02 xxxx Reply to:  or

I am going to be entering EMT school and seeking my Fire Fighter 1 certification and wanted some advice about equiptment. I want to buy some steel toed boots and was wondering if anyone had some advice about what kind to buy and what to look for. If you have any advice about other equiptment please let me know.


San Jose, CA

 Posted 12/24/02 xxxx Reply to:  or

I am going through a sexual harassment lawsuit I filed and I could use any feedback and support/stories anyone would care to give. The retaliation I've endured has been relentless, even from other female FFs. I'm a single homeschool mom with 3 of my 5 children still at home. I am a long standing member of 12 step group and am grateful that God has brought me and my children literally back from very rough times.

I am currently a volunteer on a small force and I love it! My chief is very supportive but cannot get involved. I would like to connect with anyone has been there, or may be there now.

Thank you so much,

Kelly Real
 Posted 12/11/02 xxxx Reply to:  or
  Hi! I am 45 year old woman who has always thought of being a firefighter. I am getting ready to start a program in California at a community college. Am I absolutely crazy to try this at this point in my life?? I am married with a family, but my boys are old enough that I feel free to have the time to do this. I am in excellent shape, and plan on working out hard to pass the physical test. I already have a college degree in another field, but really feel compelled to do this. I would appreciate some of your opinions, as I am unsure of the possibility of passing and getting hired at my age. Am I out of my mind????


Posted 12/5/02 xxxx Reply to: or

This week I resigned from the fire service.

After 10 years and making the rank of engineer, I left. I was not harrassed as bad as some, I laughed with the guys, ate with them,watched movies but there was always the underlying theme that I was different. Although I had experienced the same problems most women encounter as firefighters, (can she do the job? why not go into education? And the like) the real problems started when I was promoted and put under a lieutenant that I had never worked with. I was a newly promoted driver and he found fault in literally everything I did.I couldn't even turn into a grocery store without him complaining. If I pulled the air horn he would yank it from my hand.

It was ALWAYS something, I was undermined in front of rookies and challenged in front of the crew.What made that so bad was when he was off I stepped into his position as acting lt. for that day. How could these guys respect me when he was making sure they wouldn't? When I went up the chain of command to the battalion chief, he ultimately became extremely angry, yelling at me and threatening my sgt. bars. I wound up taking a stress related leave of absence using all my vacation and sick leave up, losing pay and when I returned I was moved to a completely different battalion and those 2 officers stayed where they were.

This new Lt. I was under didn't think I drove fast enough and was always on me.One night out on the freeway in the POURING rain he wanted me to pass a gas tanker, get in front of him and get off at the next exit. (we were riding emergency to a minor accident) I refused to do this feeling it was too dangerous and risky so I slowed down got behind the tanker and easily exited the ramp.No time was lost in our arrival on scene but he was annoyed at me and didn't feel like I " had it" and criticised me to me, and to other firefighters and officers.

Then there was the fire captain who I drove a 44 foot ladder truck for him one night to a working fire. I had never driven this truck at night and emergency till this night. He yelled at me the whole time I was enroute then got out went to the battalion chief and criticised my driving in front of everybody at the fire scene so everyone heard him complaining about me. Add to all this how every decision I made as an acting officer was questioned.(why'd she drop a skid load? why'd she call the squad?) Guys with half my time in and had no rank were even critical of me.

It got to be where I started to have serious stress related health problems. I was getting shortness of breath and depression. I loved the job but hated the environment.Then someone said to me, why do you want to work in a place you can't breathe?

The last job I worked prior to being a firefighter, I was made employee of the year. Then I come to the fire service and all of a sudden I can't do anything right. So I left, I tried to figure out a way to make peace with it to make it work but I couldn't so I just clocked out in the middle of my shift last week and left.


  Reply from posted 12/15/02


I'm sorry to read you had such an awful time. It truly is unfortunate that the men you were working with were not good leaders. I experienced much of the same thing, to a much lesser degree at my first station. I switched departments, and am pleased to report that there are departments where this bigotry doesn't exist. If you find yourself missing the fire service, I suggest you look to starting at another department.

And if you don't miss it, that's perfectly fine as well. There are plenty of jobs out there that offer the same satisfaction of helping your community and making a difference as the fire service does. That is something else that has occurred to me after being in the fire service for three years -- that maybe waiting around for people to be in need is not the best way to
help a community -- maybe a proactive approach is better.

Take care,


  Reply from posted 12/15/02

I work for the same department as the woman who just quit. She did not mention that we have highly-ranked women who have come up through the ranks. I find it interesting that while they have been in leadership positions there has been no appreciable change in atmosphere within the department. In fact, the number of women on the line has not changed. The more experienced women who have not been supported have moved on to areas other than suppression or quit. If fifty percent of the men in the department had quit or moved on to other areas within the last five years, I wonder if management would recognize that they have a problem.

Additionally, many conversations have been had among the minorities within the department acknowledging that they have moved out of suppression because of the atmosphere in the station. Despite being made aware of some of these situations, management does not seem to see the big picture. In fact, at times it seems as if they do just enough to give the appearance that they are trying to make a change, such as providing excellent conflict resolution training to the entire department. If the department is all white men, and there is diminishing diversity, the need to resolve conflict will not be there.

Are there other women out there who are made to feel like they are crazy because the women who have gone before them do not see, or want to acknowledge, that just because they have made it, that the problems and trials that they faced have not gone away?

I feel that posting on this bulletin board is the only way I can be heard. I am withholding my name for fear of internal backlash.


  Reply from posted 1/21/03

I have thought about this for a while and decided to write a reply. I work for the same department as Bonnie, and think everyone deserves to know that there are two sides to every story. The first thing that she mentions is that there seemed to be an "underlying theme that I was different." Well, she put a lot of effort into making herself different. I have been with this department for 6 1/2 years and I have watched Bonnie do an excellent job of alienating herself from the rest. She did "laugh with the guys" and spend time with them but all the while she was taking notes and making entries to be used against them at a convenient time. Bonnie seemed to have a lot of trouble problem-solving with the people she worked with. I personally was interviewed several time about my views of complaints she had made in the stations. Several of which were problems I had also encountered. I have worked in all four of our Battalions, on all three shifts, with a wide range of officers. I have never had a problem arise that I could not go to the "guys" or the officer and say "here is the problem, here is my solution, what do you think?"

I have worked with some of the same officers that Bonnie complained about and I think her representation of the captain in particular is very unfair. This man was over me in rookie school and I have worked with him throughout my career here. He may have poor people skills sometimes, but he is reasonable and willing to listen.

There are a lot of things I could say about Bonnie, but I don't think that would be fair. All I want to get across is that, before you jump on the bandwagon there are always two sides to the story.

Now in response to Fyregoddess, I think she needs to experience some other fire departments. We do have high ranking women in our department. They got there by working for it just like everyone else. No one is ever held back in our department. Our administration goes out of its way to help anyone who wants to help themselves. People need to quit blaming their problems or lack of performance on someone else and take the responsibility for themselves. Our department is as diverse as the applicants make it. We have a large recruiting drive, an extremely easy entrance PT, and all the support you need. I am interested to know which "more experienced women" she is talking about that have moved or quit. Bonnie is the ONLY female that I know that has quit since I have been here. Due to the fact that she was never happy or pleasant that might not have made that decision a bad thing.

You should never be scared of "internal backlash." If you feel strongly enough to write it -- take credit for it!


  Reply posted 1/29/03
  In response to Mele's post about me (Bonnie), Mele and I never spoke to each other, we never had a conversation and we never worked together. She came on the department almost 4 years after me. We never had anything to do with each other but to pass each other at shift change.

 Posted 12/5/02 xxxx Reply to: 
  My name is Laura and I am a Fire Chief/Fire Prevention Officer of a small rural community in Northern Ontario, Canada. I am interested in fire prevention/public education activities that work in your communities.

Laura Lee
Fire Chief
Hawk Junction Fire Department
Posted 12/5/02 xxxx Reply to: 

A Washington, D.C. based public relations firm is looking for firefighter moms with children under the age of five willing to be potential interviewees for national parenting magazines articles we are trying to pitch.

Please contact Ms. Lyons via email at

Posted 11/30/02 xxxx Reply to: 

Hey fellow firefighters.....I have a question only because it is eventually going to be a problem for me....and I want to prepare for it. I am one of 2 active 15 years of service firefighters in NJ. The other woman has had 3 children and faced biased attack by the men in the dept. Even though we have never had any problems before, they are saying for us to just
go on leave and that's it. We have read that we should have a light duty definition for situations like this. We don't have anything specifically written for even when someone is on injury disability......let alone pregnancy.

What rights do we have when we are pregnant? We are volunteers so do we fall back on state recommendations? Are we still able to maintain a percentage of service via light duty? Are we still allowed to train as long as we feel it is not obstructive to our pregnancy (ie: classroom training vs live burn training)? What experience does anyone have in this area?

Please respond to me directly as I will be able to see it faster. My e-mail address is drsfosterdc@aol.com (I am also a doctor of chiropractic).

Thanks so much!

Renee Foster
Firefighter (hopefully Lieutenant after Dec!)
Green Brook Fire EMS

 Posted 11/26/02 xxxx Reply to:  or

I recently took the exam to become a Denver firefighter. I passed the exam, then I had to take a video test. The video test consisted of 8 scenarios, and then you rate the answers they ask you regarding the scenarios you just watched. The hiring is done by who scores the best on the video test. I have no information regarding what score is a good score on the video test. Does anyone have any information or know anything about this process?

This website is the best.

 Posted 11/25/02 xxxx Reply to: or

Hello, my name is Romona Harris. I'm a a single parent of four, and I live in Orlando, Florida. I'm in the process of trying to attend training to become a Firefighter. I know that the Orange County Fire Rescue and Orlando Fire Dept. offer training. But their classes stay full.

I worked for a fire department for two years in the supply bureau, but left my job because my oldest son became severely depressed and required my undivided attention. But he's better now and I have a job doing clerical work. I know that I'm not cut out to be in the office environment. I miss the Fire service although I wasn't a Fire fighter I participated in a lot of their events. I had the pleasure of making friends with a female fire fighter who introduced me to more female firefighters. You see all my life I thought that firefighting was a boys club. But she and her friends taught me better than that.

My desire is to be a firefighter. I'm looking for a new environment and new career. Does anyone know of anyone who offers scholarships for Afro-American women that want to become Firefighters? I would appreciate any information that could help me. I know I will find a way somehow, because I know I'm destined to be a great Firefighter.

Thank you,

Romona Harris

 Posted 11/17/02 xxxx Reply to: or
  I've worked for a small department for the past 6 years. I was the first and still only female working for the department. I originated as a FF/EMT and through the years progressed as a FF/Paramedic/HAZMAT Tech to further my skills and knowledge in the fire service along w/ having to prove myself to "the guys". As I've had no run-ins with my peers, I have however, had to deal with the "good 'ol boy" syndrome which dominates upper management. Recently my wonderful and supportive husband and I are in the process of expanding our family. With that small Hx, here are my questions:

1. How do you handle male chauvinism, sexist remarks in upper management? Comments are made and then laughed about as if their behavior is appropriate. And I believe women in clerical positions have brushed it off, but yet these comments are causing a hostile environment. I want to know how and when to pick the battle.

2. If they are requiring you to wear uniforms and typically supply uniforms, do they also supply a uniform for the pregnant employee?

Your assistance in pointing me into the direction that would provide answers would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
  Reply from posted 12/13/02

Hi fellow firefighter,

I am also the first and only female in my department. I`m in a city called Waterford in southeast Ireland. I`ve been a retained firefighter for nearly two years now. I love the job but sometimes feel a bit left outside. The guys are great but tend to keep me at a distance. I found I had to prove to them that I can do the job as well as any of them but I have to work harder both on the fireground and with my fitness training so as not to show any weakness. This can be a strain at times. Can you identify with what I'm saying? Look forward to hearing from you.

Stay safe,


Posted 11/13/02 xxxx Reply to: or

Looking for information regarding other career fire dept.'s policies on pregnancy and firefighting/EMS duties, light duty (when and if the employer sets a time limit for when one must go light duty), hazards/risks to the developing child, maternity leave, uniforms (for the size changes), etc.

Any information greatly appreciated.

Kristine Leverich
Madison, WI

  Reply from WFS staff, posted 11/13/02
  Women looking for this type of information should also check out WFS' resources on this issue, both online and available by mail. A workshop at our April 2003 conference in Denver -- "Policy Development for a Diverse Workforce -- will also cover maternity and reproductive safety issues in detail.
Posted 11/13/02 xxxx Reply to: or
  I'm interested in submissions to put together a book of short stories from career women firefighters. I'd like the real stuff- I want stories from individual chapters of women's lives in this non-traditional field and how gender has played a part in that experience. I'd like to know about work plays into personal life. I want to put these together in a book that other women can read and relate to. If you're interested in submitting a story for this book, please contact me. Thanks! Cyndi
 Posted 11/13/02 xxxx Reply to: or

Finally, a calender featuring real women working in the fire/emergency services! Grey Ghost Productions is seeking photos of women in the fire/emergency services, both working and daily life on the job.

We need your help! We are asking for your photos to develop a nationwide spectrum of women throughout the industry. This is being designed and marketed by women firefighters dedicated to creating awareness!

Send pictures via e-mail or snail mail. Please include your department, first name and perhaps some info about the photo. All information will be kept confidential and will not be published with photo.

Snail mail:

   Grey Ghost Productions
   Kristina Lemon
   4256 29 Ave South
   Minneapolis MN 55406

Deadline is December 31st, 2002. Please send us your most exciting photo's representing what we do in the field. All final productions will be sent out complimentary to selected photo participants.
 Posted 11/4/02 xxxx Reply to: or
  Hi, my name is Dora, I'm 44 years old, and have been a member of our small rural New York department for four years. I have completed Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Firefighting classes, and in all those classes, I was only one of two female firefighters who were in the classes. Our department had three females, including myself when I first started; now we have five females that are active members.

I am one of the lucky ones, though. No one dropped out because of women joining the department; as a matter of fact, it was one of our male members who directed me to this site with much encouragement! (His daughter is one of the other female firefighters in our department.) And we, the women of our department, get much encouragement from the male members of our department.

However, we do feel the wrath of men from other departments who prefer women not tread on the hallowed ground of the firefighting service. I am dealing with a situation at present.

I would be open to hearing from any other women in the fire service. Anyone out there my age? Or any of you young women who wish to message me, I'm a good listener. I'm 44 years old, but feel much younger than that! I have no children, nor a steady male companion.I'm at a point in my life, where I'm confident in myself, and am content with being a single lady firefighter. I share a house with my mom, who is quite supportive of me in the fire service, as is my brother who is as proud of me and my fire service accomplishments as he is of his son's high school accomplishments.
Posted 10/30/02 xxxx Reply to: or
  Hi, I am an aspiring firefighter and will be testing with two fire departments this winter. I have just begun pursuing a career as a firefighter and would appreciate any advice people would have, especially from women firefighters. I am also interested in any tips on the testing process and ways to prepare for the physical agility test.

Thank you so much,

 Posted 10/29/02 xxxx Reply to: or

My name is Julia, and I am a college student in Boston. I have volunteered with my local department for about one and a half years, and firefighting has become my passion. I am taking the FDNY exam this winter, and was wondering if anyone could give me any advice for taking the test, and especially for preparing for the physical abilities test. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

-- Julia
 Posted 10/22/02 xxxx Reply to:


I am looking for some assistance on a "Firehouse Cooks" story for "Better Homes and Gardens Quick and Easy Outdoor Cooking" magazine.

My time frame is short, so I need to hear from someone in the next day or two. Specifically, I am looking for a volunteer firefighter from the east coast or midwest who is a good cook and likes to do outdoor cooking.

She would need to provide me with several quick and easy outdoor cooking recipes as well as a photo or two of herself cooking at a fire station or at home. I will also want to talk with her briefly about firefighting, outdoor cooking, etc.

Thanks for your help. Replies can be made to Suzanne Hall, , or 423-332-4953.

Posted 10/21/02 xxxx Reply to: or

Good Morning, My name is Gina and I'm again trying to get myself in to the fire field. I'm amazed that I never found this site before now. I was a volunteer firefighter for a small rural town, and that department left a very bad impression on me. I was told that I would never make it as a regular firefighter, seeing as how I was a woman.

I never really believed it, but I've just applied for a test here in Portland, Oregon, and now those words are coming back to haunt me. I know that I'm not, by any means, 6'4 and 200lbs buff, but I know that I can do the job. I'm wondering if there are any career women firefighters out there that can give me some tricks of the trade. I'm 5'3" and I know that there are tricks for some of those tests. If you can help please e-mail me.

Thanks in advance,
Gina A.

Posted 10/16/02 xxxx Reply to: or
  Hi, my name is Sarah and I am a college student, interested in doing seasonal work as a wildland firefighter. I'm just wondering if anyone out there can give me advice about how to go about it or just tell me about their experiences. Any replies would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
 Posted 10/16/02 xxxx Reply to: or

My name is Stephanie. I am 18 years old. I have been a volunteer firefighter for 5 years now and an EMT-B for almost 3 years. This is probably one of the most inspiring web sites I have ever been to. I just wanted to let you guys know how good it makes me feel to see so many women in the fire service. I also have a question. Does anyone know of a place where I could find scholarships? Anything would be greatly appreciated.



 Posted 10/16/02 xxxx Reply to: or

Hi, my name is Deborah and I'm a career firefighter in Portland, Oregon. I am looking for information from depts. which have any form of a mentoring program for new recruits. My dept. is 700+ sworn firefighters and we do not have any type of program in place to help our new hires adjust to their "new world". I am working on a proposal and formal training guidelines to address this huge hole. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I can be reached @ (503)705-4668.

Thank you,

 Posted 10/16/02 xxxx Reply to: or

Hi! My name is Allison and I am a 15 year old, high school sophomore girl from Chino, California. I am extremely interested in becoming a firefighter. I was wondering if anyone could give me any advice about how to become a firefighter, what classes would be helpful to take in high school, what type of physical exercises I should do, and anything else that is important. Also, any personal stories of how you became a firefighter would be great. Thank you so much for any help you can offer me.

Thanks again,

  Reply from posted 10/20/02
  Hi Allison welcome and good luck !

You will have to expect a lot of challenges, but not more than male firefighters, they are diff or sometimes more difficult (diference of physical strength, weight, hight), that's all.

Some physical challenges:
  wear heavy loads, as hoses, while running or climbing
  holding the powerful to flow the fire
  staying 15/30 minutes with the SCBA rubber mask on your face, sweating and sucking hottest air from your bottles, in full action, and in a smoke so thick you cant see your hands or feet (smoke filled chamber tests are done)

And so on. I shall tell you more in a next mail !

Posted 10/4/02 xxxx Reply to: or

I commend all you ladies that are participating in memorial services. I will attend the National Fallen Firefighter's Memorial Service in Washington, DC on October 6. A few years ago I attended the service and was one of two women in the Honor Guards that year.

Every time I put on my "dress" uniform, I am proud to represent the fire service. I will be honored, yet again, to offer support to the families of ALL the fallen firefighters of 2001, no matter which department they hail from, or whether or not they are IAFF members.

I hope to see other members of WFS in attendance. Thank you.

Shannon Hurst Lane
St. George FD
Baton Rouge, LA

Posted 10/4/02 xxxx Reply to: or

Hi Everybody!!! My name is Shannon and this is my second time writing in the guestbook. First of all I would like to thank everyone that responded to my posting regarding LASIK... your advice/information was VERY helpful and encouraging. It turns out that my vision is better than I thought... so I won't need surgery.

So I have another question; I am from Ontario Canada and I am trying to get on to departments that are in my Province, but I am really interested in maybe going to the US for jobs as well..in particular the FDNY. I noticed the file for examination is up and I was wondering if it is possible for me to apply as a Canadian without a US citizenship... basically how hard will it be for me to get on the job in the US? Any information regarding the process of applying in the US would be extremely helpful and appreciated.

I hope none of you "take offense" to me applying as I would not want to take jobs away from born & raised Americans..I just want to be a Firefighter regardless of location. Please feel free to contact me directly. Thank you so much ladies for the help....all of you are true inspirations!!!!

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