Traditionally when we think of firefighting, we think of firemen in their uniforms. We often sexualise them and see them as objects of affection. Many women spend their time fantasising about what it would be like to be with a fireman. They, like Samantha from Sex and the City imagine that it’s all about climbing down the firemen’s pole as she famously did in the first episode of season 3, however the reality is more like a later scene when she quickly had to change out of the fireman’s uniform leaving her naked while the firemen went and extinguished the fires.
Although Sex and the City painted the firefighting profession as glamorous, the reality is much different as Australian firefighters would know. One such firefighter is Kat Robinson Williams who has attracted controversy because she’s fighting fires while pregnant. She’s confidently responded by saying that she’s a firefighter and that she’s a woman but that she doesn’t care if people don’t like what she’s doing. Her concern is that the state of NSW is up in flames. Rather than focusing on her being pregnant, shouldn’t we be commending her for being willing to step up and help the state when it’s in need? Why should gender even factor into the equation?
What a lot of people don’t realise is that firefighters are given extensive training so it doesn’t actually matter what gender you are.
The NSW RFS website features an information booklet which contains all you need to know about becoming a volunteer firefighter. It has five key areas:
Each of the areas focuses on ensuring that firefighters have the tools necessary to fight fires and make an ever lasting impact for our country.
At the foundation level, you’ll learn all there is to know about the ground work.
The technical level will see you become qualified so that you can extinguish fires with or without supervision.
When you study supervision you’ll learn how to lead other volunteer firefighters.
More senior is the command level where you’ll develop the skills to lead entire crews on the ground so they can perform firefighting duties effectively.
For those who’d rather look at strategy, the Strategic level is ideal and will teach you how to develop strategies and plans to manage firefighting activities.
All levels will see you learn the theory before you put it into practice and get to work on the ground.
So what exactly is firefighting like for a woman?
Despite gender equality and women having higher workforce participation rates, the rate of women firefighters is extremely low. In Victoria, only 80 of 2000 CFA members are women. Although it’s changing it’s still got a long way to go. The women receive the exact same training as the men and work just as hard.
46 year old, Melbourne Water firefighting crew leader and operations officer Renelle Verkes recounts how the force was much different to when she first joined. When she first joined it was uncommon to see women in the CFA because of the bloke perception and any women who were involved would be doing the administration or making the firemen sandwiches, whereas now they’re out in the field putting out blaze.
There are however all female firefighting crews in some areas of the US including Brockton Massachusetts and believe they set a great example of whats possible.
If you’re interested in joining any of Australia’s volunteer fire services head along to one of these links:
NSW – Rural Fire Service
Victoria – Country Fire Authority
SA – Country Fire Service
Tasmania – Tasmania Fire Service
ACT – Rural Fire Service
Come Join a crew, Australia needs YOU.
Written by Libby Shaw.
Edited and Supported by Rebecca Bennett, Founder of Fembuiz Directory.