Wash. Fire Department Establishes All-Female Crew
July 09—Spokane Fire District 10 has been trying to organize an all-female crew for months. Last week, they pulled it off.
The district hit a milestone on July 3, staffing a shift with only female firefighters—the first time such a thing has been done in Spokane, they said. Rachel Rademacher, McKenna Jimno, Kelsey Wardsworth, Amanda Pastian, Shyann Morton, Tiffany Pope and Brittany Wuesthoff made up the crew.
"I just think it's a super empowering thing," said Wuesthoff, a volunteer firefighter on the shift that night. She said the reasoning behind the move wasn't to make a statement, but to give the crew a chance to hang out together. The women are already friends outside of work, she said.
Fire District 10 employs 12 women out of about 80 firefighters, District 10 Deputy Chief Orlando Sandoval said. That's about double the national average. About 7.3 percent of firefighters in the U.S. are women, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
"It's rare to see this many women in a district," Wardsworth said.
The shift started at 5 p.m., with the firefighters cooking a hearty dinner of brisket and twice-baked potatoes for themselves. They did chores and watched a movie, Magic Mike.
The crew got one call that night, for chest pain, at 4 a.m. When the six arrived on scene, the EMT noticed they were all women.
"The EMT said that it was pretty cool," Wardsworth said. "We were able to get on scene and handle it like any other shift."
Sandoval said that the shift is already staffed with majority women, and it was up to them to rearrange their schedules to achieve the all-female crew. He said he's been happy to promote and raise awareness of female firefighters.
"From our standpoint," Sandoval said, "there's no difference between them and the men."
Wardsworth echoed that idea that there isn't much of a difference between the genders.
"It's not really different from having guys on the crew," she said. "We did the same thing with our daily routine of chores and training."
There's no set plans to do another all-female shift, Wuesthoff said, but it's something that they want to do again.