Women in the Fire Service, Inc.
Bulletin Board/Guestbook Archives
March - September 2004


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 Posted 9/15/04 xxxx Reply to:

I am producing a show for the City of Detroit's Cable Commission. It is called "The Finest." It is about those who go above and beyond the call of duty to keep Detroit's streets safe. I want to do my next show on the first women firefighters in Detroit. If anyone know how I can contact Harriett Saunders, Theresa Smith or Sandy Kupper it would be greatly appreciated.

Also, any other women firefighters in Detroit that my be interested in the project contact me at 313/717-8062 or email me at

Posted 9/8/04 xxxx Reply to: or

Dear Ladies,

I'm looking for more information on "maternity leave" for female firefighters. I'm on a paid department that offers its employees FMLA, and with that you use vacation time and/or sick time to keep the paycheck coming after having a child. Companies and/or businesses in the private sector often offer maternity leave, e.g., six weeks of paid short-term disability and then the employee can use sick or vacation time.

I'm the first female firefighter on our department to have a child (16 months ago). I'm working presently with our union to try to get more information about maternity leave and primarily to see if there are any fire departments out there that offer this benefit.  I'm hoping that someday this would be a benefit offered to our city employees.

If anyone has any information to share or suggestions for me, I would greatly appreciate it!


Posted 9/7/04 xxxx Reply to: or


I am just beginning by career in the fire/EMS service and I'm so grateful for this excellent website.

I'm having a hard time building up my upper body strength despite lifting weights for 90 min sessions 2-3 times per week. I have been following the routines in the Firefighter's Workout Book and saw some results in the beginning, but even after adding more weight or reps when I think I should, after six months I am not getting anywhere. I also run and do the StairMaster with a backpack on for cardiovascular endurance -- could I be undoing what I do in the weight room by burning too many calories?

Are personal trainers worth the money? How much protein should I be getting? Are there any safe supplements, (more along the lines of vitamins and less like creatine)? Are there any books or personal trainers on the web or even body sculpting magazines that are geared toward women building upper body strength or tips and tricks for body mechanics that utilize our leg muscles to do things like intubate, carry and raise ladders, operate the Jaws of Life, or drag a dummy- things that I have found to require the most strength? Are there any women reading this who posed for the firefighter's calendar??!! I have that picture on my weight room wall to remind myself that it is possible to become strong enough to do the job I love.

Any advice or stories of similar struggles would be very much appreciated.

Eureka, MO

Posted 9/3/04 xxxx Reply to: or


My department is in the process of writing a new grooming standard, and the draft that is currently on the table is severe. PLEASE, if you can, as soon as you can (because this is a very hot topic in my department right now) send me a copy of your department's SOP or SOG or whatever you use that dictates your department's grooming standard. We'll really be thankful to have input from other departments. Please send it to .

Thanks again!

Dele (Maria) Peterson

Posted 8/20/04 xxxx Reply to: or


I am looking to hear from other women in the fire service/EMS that have been harassed, kept down or otherwise discouraged by other women in their services. I have the full support of the male firefighters, medics and officers on my department -- and am honored and fortunate to work beside them. Unfortunately some women find other strong women to be threats and rather than standing together, they work hard at driving them out. If anyone has any stories to tell, or is in a similar situation, please reply. I was passed over for a job this week... my only opposition was... well, you can guess what it was.

I refuse to take this lying down, as the circumstances surrounding my disqualification were utterly ridiculous. Any thoughts, similar stories, etc. from anyone would be appreciated.



  Reply posted 8/30/04
  I am currently a firefighter/paramedic for a medium sized department in the northwest. The one and only time I have been deliberately and actively undermined in my pursuit of this career was at the hands of a female firefighter. I won't share the particulars of my story, because the individual involved spends time on this board and might recognize herself and retaliate again. You are not alone in suffering at the hands of a fellow female firefighter. She cost me my dream job by starting vicious rumors and scaring the administration into passing me over and hiring male firefighters instead. Fortunately, what goes around comes around, and I am doing well at another department and she is no longer in the fire service. Keep the faith and keep trying. Best wishes.
Posted 8/20/04 xxxx Reply to: or

I just read an interview with Dennis Leary, in Entertainment Weekly Magazine. He was talking about his new show "Rescue Me" on FX. I have not seen the show, however some of my coworkers have told me that it isn't a very positive portrayal of firefighters as a whole. One of the statements Leary made in the interview really disturbs me. When asked "What else can we look forward to this season?" Leary says "Later on we'll have a female firefighter
assigned to our house."

The reporter asks,"And this means trouble?" Leary's response: "Most of the women placed in the fire department here in New York never passed the physical test. And a fat guy or a short guy, or anybody not passing the test in a life-or-death job, leads to friction."

I can't believe that FDNY doesn't require everyone to pass the agility test. Does anyone have any knowledge on this? What is FDNY's agility test like? I would like to see WFS respond to Leary's statement. Leary has done a lot to raise $$ to help out fire departments through his Leary for Firefighters Foundation. It would be nice if he had accurate information regarding women in the fire service.


  Reply posted 9/20/04

I found this article that has some statistics on FDNY. I was moved to do so after tonight's episode which I watched at the fire station with my crew. (My firefighter said, "Wow... the only stereotype they didn't bring up on this episode was drinking on the job!" and actually, even that was suggested.) I don't know how current it is, but for what it's worth, check out this site for stats: www.thenorthstarnetwork.com/news/specialreports/181518-1.html

With each episode of "Rescue Me", I am realizing it is less about the fire service and more like a soap opera, and equally as predictable and unbelievable. Unfortunately, John Q. Public doesn't know that and thinks the show is an accurate depiction of how it is in the fire service, coast to coast. I count my blessings that I work for a good department in northern California in which I feel valued and respected. I am one of three females in my department of 65, so that's about 6% if my math's right, twice the national average. Not bad. And the really good news is that we all pretty much rock. : )

From your sister,

  Reply from kreal@tc3net.com posted 8/30/04

I just watched my first show of "Rescue Me." I thought it was funny, sad, some true, some of course dramatized.

I also feel the negative image is damaging. What can we do? Write to someone somewhere? Just let me know, I will. I get so weary of the media representing us this way.

Let's see one of them throw on gear... not.


Posted 7/14/04 xxxx Reply to:
  I just came across your memorial link for my mother, Ingrid Sowle. I just wanted to thank you for remembering her. She was more special than words can describe, but the posted articles come close.


Mike Sowle
Posted 7/2/04 xxxx Reply to: or

I am part of a committee researching job-share opportunities in the fire service. Does anyone know of a fire department already allowing two employees to share one job position? We have a number of new mothers that
are interested in doing this, and I can foresee people close to retirement being interested in something like this.

I would appreciate any information or ideas people have on job sharing or part-time employment in the fire service.

Rene' Pizzo
Portland Fire & Rescue

Posted 6/29/04 xxxx Reply to:

I would like to thank all involved in this site. Very informative! I just wish my mother would have had a support group of this nature.

Thank you,

Son of
Marsha Baczynski
Died in the line of duty October 25, 1987
Milford, Michigan
Training fire that claimed her and two male firefighters, Thomas Phelps and Robert Gregory

  Reply posted 7/2/04
  To the son of Marsha Baczynski,

In case you haven't heard it lately, your mom was a great lady. Those of us who have followed her will be forever grateful for her sacrifice and yours. I'm sure she would be proud that you sent a message on this great website!

Posted 6/26/04 xxxx Reply to: or
  Wow and Totally Way Cool!

I was privileged and honored today to be a Camp 911 counselor for the first time ever! I love this new EMS I am working for. My 9 yr old son and 2 of my friends children were in attendance. The blessings just keep on coming!
just an update..

Posted 6/8/04 xxxx Reply to: or

My dilemma:

I wanted to be a paid firefighter. I passed the Civil Service test with a 95. I paid for, and became an EMT, with experience, to better my chances of being hired. I passed the physical agility test two times in two years. I became the only woman, in a group of 27 men, to be hired first. The list was 170 persons. The list is good for four years.

I have been passed over for hire three times in three years. I am getting older and need to get on soon. We have no age limit but I have to put in 20 years. The men who were hired over me, some same age or older, some were not even EMT's and the City has to pay for their mandatory training.

There are two hirings this year, April and August. The August hiring will be only 5 persons to be hired. There are 4 left in the original group (95-100 test score), with me. They have to, by Civil Service laws, hire down to the last two. Then they can pick people in the 90-94 test score range.

There is only one woman on our fire department. She has been on for three years. She was a paramedic before hire.
There are about 140 or so, men on the department. The mayor is the person who hires. This is his last term. I have no pull, politically. I have no major defects that would steer people away from me. In fact I am doing great in my City appointed, low paid, dog warden job. I have always been athletic but I have run and lifted weights for 3 1/2
years, with this goal in mind.

I fear I may get passed over again. I am around 40 years of age. Many people give me advice to get a lawyer, go to the newspapers, TV, women's right group... I have a problem with using negative tactics. I have done all I can in the positive. I am on friendly terms with many of the city firefighters and they like me; some are officers, including the chief. But it is up to the mayor.

Can anyone give me any advice? Thank you for reading all of this.....

Tired of being passed over
NY State, USA

  Reply from posted 6/19/2004
  I understand your hesitation to proceed with any legal action in this matter, but I disagree with you that the legal pursuit is a negative one. I would not be hasty in doing this, but I wouldn't rule it out either. It will be up to you as to your willingness to take on the system. I'll keep it in prayer for you and perhaps a new mayor will be more progressive?

Hang tough sis,

 Posted 6/8/04 xxxx Reply to: or
  I am a 16 year old girl and ever since I can remember I've had the dream of becoming a firefighter/paramedic. However, in the last two years I've had three back surgeries, initially ending up with a 5 level spinal fusion due
to scoliosis. Can anybody tell me if it's still possible to become a firefighter? I'm not afraid of a lot of hard work, I'm going crazy to know if I've still got a chance.


  Reply from posted 6/19/2004

I looked through the NFPA regulations (1582) for your condition. There are no absolute conditions of the spine that will exclude you. Conditions that may exclude a candidate are arthritis, structural abnormality, hernias, etc. Scoliosis probably would fall under structural abnormality. The regulations also say that any "other spinal condition that results in a person not being able to perform as a fire fighter" will exclude you. So if your fusion means you can't bend over, lift, crawl, or something like that -- you may be excluded. If you are able to pass the department's physical agility test that's pretty good proof that you are able to do the job. You can also consult with an expert (osteopath) and get his or her opinion. If they say you can do the job, the department's physical will probably accept that opinion and you'll be accepted.

Good luck! - Andy

  Reply from posted 6/19/2004
  Dear Whitney,

One of the former fire chiefs who is still on our dept and is in his late 50's has scoliosis. He has not been able to don an SCBA but there is still a great deal he did then and still does. He is now our fire saftey officer after putting in 3 years as chief. He was elected by the firefighters.

There has never been a female officer on our dept, and only a handful of women. And there has certainly never been a female fire chief. It is my plan to change that, and not because I don't like these guys, but because I do. There are of course the old cronies and nepotism, but i also see a changing of the guards.

I'm 40 and have only been in fire/ems for 4 years. I plan to finish fire training and officer's school this year, and then go on to medics next fall. There are a lot of aggressive, arrogant buttheads out there, Whitney, and a lot of them are women. But if you persevere, and it is really your passion and dream, you can do it. There are laws in place now for EOE for Americans with Disabilities. There is something for everyone to do in this field, just find your place.

I don't know if this is what you were asking,but at the least I hope to encourage you.

Good luck girlfriend,

 Posted 6/2/04 xxxx Reply to: or


I am a teacher, not a firefighter and not an attorney. What I am wondering about is are you aware of any lawsuits/ litigation (past or present) that have to do with firefighter clothing for women, such as women not having clothing that fits them properly. (or men not having clothing that fits) Or women not having equal facilities such as bathrooms or even sleeping quarters. And if you are aware of any legal action on this type of topic, what is the name of the case and where can I locate it. (i.e., is it in a state court, federal court, etc.) Thank you for your assistance.

 Posted 5/20/04 xxxx Reply to: or

(by Ivan Franko)

I have not lived long in this world,
Yet I have learned to take account
Of what I got from life -- not much,
But none the less, a fair amount.

It taught me to perceive the good,
Gave me a glimpse of learning's wealth,
Put love for justice in my soul,
Gave me two hands to work and health.
It gave me friendship, mutual love,
Although not always strong and deep.
It said: "Go sow thy seed, although
Thy hand may not the harvest reap."
It also gave me enemies
Who cursed and persecuted me;
It gave me friends who yet were prone
First their own interests to see.
Yet over all I value most
The cup of unjust suffering
Life gave to me, that truth and light
I might perhaps to others bring.

April 1.1880

Posted 5/16/04 xxxx Reply to:

Dear WFS Members,

It has been quite sometime since I have posted (10/30/01) on this website -- as the saying goes -- there is strength in numbers!

It is sad to tell the reality of how individuals who worked at "Ground Zero" have lifelong illnesses that are not being addressed because the focus is being diverted to those who lost their life on that tragic day. Just as our veterans, we became "HEROES" for a period of time and now we struggle to get the services that we need to continue the recovery process. I know the battle of fighting with the hierarchical structures or powers that be and I can
empathize with individuals that have to walk away from something that needs to be brought to justice.

The greatest lesson I have learned since 9/11/01 is I am able to maintain my dignity by being true to myself. I have gained strength by networking and the support of my friends. It is the simple pleasures of life and nature that helps me get through the rough times. I cannot tell you that this is easy, it's not! I have worked in physical pain since 9/11/01, I am awaiting approval for 3 surgeries and emotionally the rollercoaster has brought me to the depths of Hell or to the Mountain peaks. I have watched coworkers be forced out of a job they love, walk away because their edge is gone, heard the horror stories of those who took their life or are locked away in their mind not wanting to face the reality of the World's current events.

It is amazing how the day of 9/11/01 was a day of humanity and compassion and only weeks later the ugliness of separatism once again set in - did we learn from this day? - the News tells the truth! Our troops are fighting for our FREEDOM, what will be their fate when they return home?, if they return home! How many more lives must
be lost post 9/11/01? How many more walking wounded will be left to fight for their rights for a service provided unselfishly

I am not a martyr or the poor me type; it is very disconcerting to find in a country that proclaims; ...and justice for all!; the words do not met the actions taken to guide individuals.

Be safe and cherish those who love you! Pray for our troops and those who put their lives on the line each and every

(EMT/Firefighter - New York)

  Reply from posted 5/20/04
  Dear Fin:

thank you sister. I was touched when I read what you wrote. I especially liked what you wrote: "maintaining my dignity by being true to myself"..

my family and I are all doing well here now. I am back working in both FIRE and EMS and blessed to have the "cream of the crop". my daughter works with me and we have also joined the local Task Force. I can however foresee a problem with this. I have not told the team about what happened,but it is possible they know. the other team they work with which is several hours away and in contact with them,contains members from the former administration with which I had the lawsuit. I had also tried unsuccessfully to join the former team at one time but was barred because I was told by the powers that be that I was a "troublemaker"..referring to my case.
all I can do is try to ignore it and move forward. it would be heartbreak to be denied once again for a volunteer position which I am qualified and eager to serve on.

a queer twist to all this..my daughter and I are running for an elected position to support a man who hopes to be the next state representative. we are going to the state convention,and are invited to the National convention in NYC! This man is excited that we are supporting him and running for the positions,as we are not only Female Firefighters, but Mother and Daughter!

I once read a story about the first Male Black R.N. who was commissioned by the Army as an officer. It was an inspiring story,and I continue to look for more of these and always to seek the higher good of whatever situation I find myself in.

I plan to write a book about the ordeal,include many stories from others,and mix it with success and struggle. Kind of the "what happened to them after" viewpoint. I am a published writer so I believe I can move forward on this and already have several pieces finished.

Now..you Brave,Strong,Pioneering Women who are Wonderful..Lead on!

 Posted 5/16/04 xxxx Reply to:
  Looking for women fire & EMS workers in North Carolina

I am planning a fund raising benefit for SWOOP (Strong Women Organizing Outrageous Projects): www.swoop4u.org. It will be our first annual anniversary dinner and our theme is "Strong Women and Heroes." Because our anniversary this year also turns out to be 9/11, we have found the perfect speakers. They are Mary Carouba and Susan Hagan, authors of "Women at Ground Zero" (www.womenatgroundzero.com). Their book honors the women in public safety and rescue who went unrecognized during the 9/11 disaster. We really want to reach out to North Carolina women who work or volunteer in public safety.
 Posted 5/7/04 xxxx Reply to: or

Has anyone come up with SOG's related to pregnant VOLUNTEER firefighters yet? To boot, an officer?
I know the time will come... I am a 16-year member and currently Captain/Training Officer in our dept. We merged with EMS seven years ago, so there are a few more women around, but EMS pushes their people to take leave when pregnant.

From what I have read, we as volunteers follow the labor laws but does anyone have experience with this situation in the volunteer service? We have incentives such as end-of-the year clothing reimbursement checks, and naturally relief association. I am also a delegate right now (2nd year).

Any advice/experience/help would be appreciated.

Renee T. Foster
Captain Green Brook Fire EMS
Training Officer

Posted 5/7/04 xxxx Reply to:
  Well... don't that just beat all..

Morning ladies. I sincerely hope you are all doing well and having much fun in your field! In spite of the fact that I dismissed my case, I can actually say things have improved. I start a new job next week, and God willing, paramedic class in the fall. My daughter and I are having a blast on the local FD and she has decided to take EMT class also. This after being in college for geology. Now she is also interested in law enforcement. I find this humorous... I knew she'd love it once she got in. But it's not for everyone, so one must make that choice themselves.

Last night one of our Captains resigned. He will be moving south to be closer to grown children. It was a sad moment and very quiet in the meeting. We will miss him.

Another young woman who has been at the FD for 8 years brought her new baby with her last night. The baby is tiny and gorgeous, and I can see the struggle within her. Wanting to stay with the baby, missing the FD and perhaps secretly worried about her position there, now that she is a mother. I emphathize with her. It's a hard choice. This is an issue women face daily. Since my children are much older and grown, with the exception of my 10 year-old son, I don't have to make those choices. But I find myself with the inward struggle of knowing her tiny baby needs her, and knowing how much she needs the FD. I want to be supportive to her; she has a lot to offer, and I can see she dearly loves the field. But... I'm still the new kid on the block here. Any suggestions?

I bought these 2 books written by Peter Canning. "Paramedic" and "Rescue 471". He was a political speech writer, became an EMT and then medic. They are excellent reading! When I got done with them, I wrote him to say how inspired I was..and you know what? He wrote me back! *grin*

Well, that's about all for now. I guess I just want to say that even though I gave up the battle of the case, everything else has improved so dramatically in other areas, so I didn't lose the war. I'm happy to be there with these guys, doing this job. No,we aren't ever going to get rich in this field,but thats not what we're here for. Me? I'm just here for the chicken BBQ....*grin*

Love you girls,

Posted 4/26/04 xxxx Reply to:

Dear Sisters,

I don't know where to start... but here goes...

After almost 22 months of a lawsuit which has drained me financially, emotionally, physically, as well as my family, I have decided to dismiss the case. I can no longer afford the toil this has taken, and remains to take on myself and children.

I have no idea if this has made a difference or not, and from what I've been reading on these cases, such a small minority actually succeed. And it seems there are so many of them. I can only imagine the arrogant gloating from the defense, the FD, and the man who did this, when they hear I have decided to dismiss. It was of course their objective to wear me down to this point, and even knowing that, I had gotten to the crossroads that I simply could not go any further.

Even so, there is much to be thankful for. We have moved out of state, are settled in a small town. I have my children, my daughter and I are on the FD, I was just hired into a terrific job I'd been working toward for months. I am still sober through this. We have friends, a roof over our heads, food on the table. Do I drag this baggage with me for a few more years? I have to weigh the costs to my family and me. I have decided to let God have it and trust He will deal with it.

These cases are very hard. It is a great expense in every way. And even then, you can still lose. I would imagine many have come before me, and will proceed afterward, and little by little changes will be made. So if I made even one step in that direction I have peace.

Our prayers are with each of you, and our pride in you, keep fighting the good fight, laugh often and much, hold the things of this world loosely...


Posted 4/6/04 xxxx Reply to: or

First let me say... Bravo to the organizers, instructors, and attendees of the 6th Biennial Fire Service Women's Leadership Training Seminar, held in Miami Beach, Florida. It was one of the most inspiring times of my life to be surrounded by so many courageous and incredible women from the fire and related services. I cannot tell you how satisfying it was to sit in the workshops and be enlightened and educated by some of the finest instructors I have ever known. My "batteries" were recharged and I made so many new friends.

Like most good things, there are always those who want to tear down what we try so hard to achieve. My first day back in the firehouse, I opened my locker to find a xerox of my seminar registration copied with a handwritten note, highlighted across the top, reading "Can you say free vacation". I then found out that copy after copy of this same note had been posted on the bulletin board at my station and removed daily by my shift Captain. I was met by the Chief who informed me that individuals throughout the department were complaining about my being granted the training request to attend the seminar. I came back to a hornet's nest of backstabbing and undermining and even an organized effort to request training all over the United States by other members of my department to try and show favoritism for my being allowed to attend the seminar.

After a morning long meeting with my Chief, my Captain, and the president of the Local, I am disheartened and disappointed. In the meeting, I told them how proud I was to be there as a representative of our department, the state of West Virginia, and how much I had taken away from the seminar, only to come back to such crap. I told them that in listening to the stories of other women, I had felt my department was better than many at dealing with my issues of being the only female in my department, when in reality a loud majority of members felt the money spent could have been used to send 4 or 5 other members to (in their mind) training that benefited more than just me.

My reply was, "When did I become so insignificant, that training I felt beneficial to this department in reference to my unique situation and that of future female candidates, was less important than training someone else might, but hadn't requested?" I was met with silence and stares. At this point my frustration was overwhelming. I had requested to attend the conference in Colorado, last year. I was asked to wait until the new budget year, when more training money could be acquired, and if at that time it was available, the department would consider sending me.

I was and still am, very thankful for the opportunity to attend the leadership seminar. I told them how many attendees paid their own way and that I was proud my dept had stepped up financially and sent me. I hope some of the things I learned will help me wage this new battle and bring a positive outcome to the sea of animosity I have to work in. One of the last things I took away from the conference was aptly put by WFS Executive Director Terese M. Floren, "You will go away from this conference changed, but when you get back, your department will not have." I have found this statement to be more true than I could ever have imagined. Be strong, sisters, and fight on!!!!

Lt. Cindy Murphy
Clarksburg Fire Dept, Clarksburg WV
IAFF Local 89

Posted 4/6/04 xxxx Reply to: or

I am a 23-year-old female with a fire protection degree and am currently working on my emergency management degree. I have been working on all of this for 5 years now and feel as if I am going nowhere.

I attend a university in Ohio that has told me that to be a fire investigator (which is my goal) I have to have a bachelors degree, which is why I am working on emergency management. However, I have no interest in this program and have been told I do not need that degree, I just need experience.

All of this just has me confused and worn out. I'm trying to keep a good grade point average while working full time and attending school part time, which isn't working out so well. With loans adding up I'm beginning to think that I am making a mistake continuing on and maybe I should give up and move back home to Michigan with my family.

Is there anyone that could give me a push in the right direction of what I should be doing? I am willing to work my way up the ladder from firefighter to investigator but I'm not sure I even remember anything to take the CPAT.

Could someone please offer any advice?


Frustrated and confused

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