History of Women in Firefighting

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The word “firefighter” mainly represent the image of a fearless extremely trained team full of masculinity. Because according to society it’s the profession of men. But in 1970s women also join in this section as professional and volunteer. But the percentage of women as firefighters is less than 20%. Because this profession is mainly known as a male-dominated or exclusively male profession.

But in the modern era, women have started choosing fire service as their profession and also including themselves as fire chief, volunteer, etc. But still, if you Google the picture of firefighter then the result will be related to masculinity. But nowadays, Women have been functioning successfully as career firefighters and officers for more than 25 years and as volunteers for much longer.

Let’s discuss the history of women as a firefighter. According to Wikipedia, Many old civilizations had a trained team of organized firefighting. One of this earliest recorded of fire services was in Ancient Rome. The Aboriginal Australians had been fighting against wildfire since very early and women were also being involved with them.

Firefighting became more organized from the 18th century onwards, led with the rise of insurance companies and then with the rise of government fire services in the 19th century. In 1818, Molly Williams becomes the first female firefighter in the United States. She joined a volunteer engine company as a slave in New York City. In that time Young women in the United Kingdom were taught fire drills, including high ladder rescues.

During World War II, women also joined the fire services of the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, though mostly in administrative and support roles. In 1970, as a result of the second-wave feminism movement and also equal employment opportunity legislation, occupational obstacles to women were removed. The first female firefighter in the United Kingdom was joined in 1976, while the first in New Zealand joined in 1981. Many fire departments required a different type of requirement to pass tough fitness tests, which became an unofficial barrier to women joining. (women organization , n.d.)

As a result, it leads to court cases in a number of countries. Brenda Berkman won a lawsuit against the New York City Fire Department for its restrictive fitness test in 1982. 40 women including herself then joined as its first female firefighters. There was a similar lawsuit which led to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 1999 that fire departments could not use restrictive fitness tests unless they could justify the need for them.

According to an article, Almost 70% of firefighters work on as volunteer basis. But the risks which they embrace this profession and put their lives in line to protect us in emergency situations is huge. They carry a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, working in accidental conditions that need a lot of mental and physical strength. These professionals training give them knowledge and training about emergency medical care and educate the public on public safety. (Picincu, 2019)

And basically, the point of view of our society is quite masculine that’s why they think that women are weaker than man. They are born to do house chores and raise the children. They think that they are superior and women are inferior. And women don’t need to do any kind of job also don’t have any kind of ability and requirement to build up their career. And this is absolutely bias.

It’s absolutely right that firefighting isn’t for everyone. People who are seriously afraid of heights or hazard spaces, or who don’t respond well in a crisis are unlikely to be attracted to the job. Some people prefer a typical business schedule to work 24-hour or other overnight shifts. Other people may ignore the physical, manual-labor facts of the job.

But there are lots of women who have enough grief, talents or attributes to join this job. They are also enough strength to become a firefighter. But why the participation of women in this section is less than a man. By doing my research and got some points. But let’s discuss the main five problems why they don’t want to be a firefighter.

Stereotypical point of view of the society: In an industry that is male dominated, it’s hard to work by knowing that no one will accept you just because you are a girl. When anyone hears the word “firefighter,” they think of a tall, strong, beefy man, not small shape woman. So, for those, it’s quite tough, sometimes it’s impossible to choose firefighting as a career for women. Because there is typically a lot of things which will make the way tougher to achieve the goal. If you walk hear it in uniform or in turnout gear, comments such as, “You’re a firefighter? But you’re so small” and “How do you wear that? It weighs as much as you do”. It’s just destroying the inner confidence of a girl. There are so many girls who can lift more weight than a boy. Just because of this type of stereotypical mentality thousand girls can move towards their dreams.

In an article which was published in June 2011 which was written by Erica Blockman. In that article, she wrote that, one thing she wish most men should remember about women that the idea that they don’t belong to this occupation is absolutely wrong. She also mention that for every handful of women who shouldn’t be in the field should remind that there are also handful of men who don’t belong as well. But the society always notice when a woman can’t pull her own weight because there is a smaller number of us, so everyone is always looking and always through comment.

But who has been looking at the percentage of men who are horribly overweight and who will only run or hike if their lives depend on it? Or the ones who only depend on their job and don’t have any consciousness about physical fitness? Regardless of this fact, however, she think that women will always get the minimum credit of any kind of success. She also said that if we can accept that, there are a few things that we should have to found to help with overcoming the challenges of any male dominated industry our state of mind and our physical fitness.

When we talk about the importance of command presence and confidence, we are talking about being mentally strong--not physically strong. Erica Blockman became a more confident firefighter and individual through physical training. The mental and physical go hand-in-hand. If we know how to train and push ourselves to the limit physically, we can be able to break mental barriers as well--the barriers that prevent you from becoming a stronger person. The more we physically challenge ourselves, the more we realize that our body is more capable and stronger than anyone believed. If we know this, we also know that we are constantly challenging ourselves to meet new heights. But we can’t do it simply by going to the gym or doing functional training alone. (blockman, 2011)

In this article, she said that strength is in our mind. If anyone is mentally enough strong she can purchase her dream. But our society thinks that we women are born as the weakest creature. So they raise us like that and make us weaker. Because they think that a girl only has to stay in the home and have to raise children and have to do house chores. So she has to be sensitive. For this that girls can be able to gain enough grief to join as a firefighter.

Lacking family support: The basic thing that everyone need is family support. If one's family is supportive then the task becomes easier. But basically, every girl is not so lucky to have that support. The first basic think women need to do as a firefighter is responding to fire alarms and emergency calls quickly at any time. Which is quite impossible for a girl without family support. If she doesn’t have both family and in-laws support it’s totally impossible.

Moreover, the basic thing a firefighter need to do is they need to prevent and minimizing fire damage as much as they can. Identifying hazardous situations that how much damage have occurred is also a major activity. They also need to respond to fire alarms and emergency calls quickly. Writing reports on emergency incidents, inspecting and cleaning up fire spot as their field work.

They also have to operate, check and maintain firefighting equipment and other necessary things. Using fire extinguishers, climbing ladders and breaking through walls another important work. Attending workshops and training programs is also necessary for them to learn how to respond. They can also learn how to drive fire trucks and other specialty vehicles from this workshop. And rescuing fire victims is their ultimate goal. (Picincu, 2019)

The first women firefighter of Bangladesh is Nasrin Sultana, 48 Years old who work as a Warehouse inspector, Fire Services & Civil Defense. Nasrin received the President Award for her courageous service to people in disaster areas, fire victims, and fire control. There are 35 firefighters who work under her command at the Lalbagh Fire Station. In an interview, a reporter asks that “Who is your biggest supporter?” In reply, she said that “My elder sister Hasina Begum who gave me the courage to pursue my career”. (nawaz, 2017) So we can see how important family support is for women.

But as the social point of view girls are not fit enough for this profession. Because as their stereotypical mentality women are born as weak. And as we practice patriarchal rules so the family will never support a girl to become a firefighter. But by any chance, if her family accept her proposal but after getting married it’s impossible to continue this job.

Male vs. female requirements: The entry requirements are the same for every firefighter. As a girl firefighter, she may need to exercise more and focus on building up her strength. In this process, she will be able to lift heavy equipment, climb up huge ladders and work night shifts.

Therefore, it's mandatory to be physically strong. This will not only make her a better firefighter, but it also will reduce her risk of injury and make her daily tasks easier. A female firefighter workout should include heavy exercises that hit all muscle as well as full body circuits and high-intensity training.

Weight lifting will help her to build muscle and strength while keeping her fit and strong. High-intensity workouts will boost her endurance and overall fitness. Kettle bell swings, interval sprints, push-ups, pull-ups, battle rope, swings burpees, rowing sprints, and deadlifts are all an excellent choice for her training routine. According to fire instructor Kevin Kupietz, physical testing increase our stamina, aerobic enhance, and overall strength. If anyone is out of shape, she may not pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) and will not get her certification. Without this certificate, she cannot work as a firefighter.”

Erica Blockman is a career engineer/paramedic working with the Mount Shasta (CA) Fire Protection District, She has been with that department for four years. She is also a personal trainer, figure competitor and group fitness instructor and have seven years of experience. In an article, she said that Being a female, tall, short, or whatever the label society tagged you doesn’t matter because we girls are only part of the so-called “female statistic'

If we do not take the time in our life to maintain our most important tools, our body and mind, we may not be as big or tall as our brothers, but we have all the strength that we need and we are enough strong both mentally and spiritually. In everyday life we will face this incorporate physical challenge into.

But we also have to accept this challenge and also should surprise ourselves. In this way we’ll be on our way to becoming not only a stronger and happier individual but one less likely to let the judgmental words of someone else ruin our day. It’s not possible to change who we are but our height, or our gender. But we can always make changes and improvements in our body and attitude.” (blockman, 2011)

For this tough process sometimes girls become confused to step forward. There is also an important reason after talking with one of my friends is no one encourage them. The thing which they get our society has some stereotypical point of view that women have to be more feminine. They need to enhance their beauty by going to the parlor not going to the gym and starting bodybuilding. For this, they lost their faith in themselves.

Low profile job and low payments: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average payment for a firefighter was $49,080 per year in 2017. More than 327,300 jobs were available in 2016. The Candidates who are physically fit and complete their training have higher chances of getting this job. Firefighter salaries vary among states. A woman firefighter in California can easily earn $20,520 to $57,060 per year.

But now let’s talk about the current situation of the firefighter of our country. They are very low paid and low profiled. I live in khilgaon. There is a fire service beside my place. So, I went there to talk about their wages and favor from this profession. They shared that they are very low paid and government doesn’t give them any kind of extra opportunities to lead their life properly.

There is another story that is, I met with a person who lost his one arm in a hazardous incident while working. His name is Abdul Gani, age 42. He is the only earning member of his family. First he was one of the volunteer of this fire station. Then after losing his one arm he was demoted. The authority gave his family a small amount of money which is not enough to lead their life properly.

So, their condition is really measurable. And this station doesn’t even have any female firefighter. So, it’s natural that a girl will avoid this profession as her career. Because everyone wants to get a good job with so much opportunity and a handsome salary. But if it’s a low paid job then definitely no one will choose it as a profession including women also.

Pyrophobia and women: There is a term that is Pyrophobia, which means that to have deeply afraid of fire. There is an article which was published in 2016. In this article, the writer had broadly discussed the following term that is Pyrophobia is quite a common phobia and many people around the globe are known to be deeply afraid of fire. The word Pyrophobia originates from Greek ‘pur/pyr’ meaning fire and ‘Phobos’ meaning fear or deep dread. In a certain limit, the fear of fire is healthy, evolutionary and normal. However, in case of a phobic, the fear turns debilitating, often affecting his/her daily life wherein one is unable to withstand even small or controlled fires. To a Pyrophoric individual, the mere smell of smoke or something burning can trigger an intense anxiety attack. (olesen, 2016)

This phobia is said to be more commonly found in women, this makes it an extremely viable reason for women to not choose “firefighter” as a carrier option as to how can you save others from something you can’t save yourself from! Regardless there are plenty of ways to eradicate phobias. With proper training and supervision, a lot of women can overcome the fear of fire to take part in the life-saving act like firefighting.

However many women are restricted by their families to do so as they think it may be too much mental pressure on both (the family and the person acquiring the phobia). For this women just skip this as their profession.


 It’s tough to choose firefighting as a career for women, it’s not impossible. Because everything is in your mind. If a girl is mentally strong then she can persuade any sort of profession as her career. But the process is really difficult as I said before. Because only a few girls can choose as a fire fighting as her career which is rare in our country. So finally, all I can say that if you are mentally strong and stable then nothing is impossible.

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History of Women in Firefighting. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved April 18, 2024 , from

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