Gender Gap: Local Fire Departments Struggle To Find Women Recruits

By Bayne Hughes
The Decatur Daily, Ala.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The U.S Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics says only 3.5 percent of the nation’s firefighters were women in 2017, down from 5.3 percent in 2007.

The Decatur Daily, Ala.

Only two women don their turnout gear in local paid fire departments, a gender gap that’s consistent with national numbers.

Both women, Janice Johnson and Emily Tapscott, work for Decatur Fire & Rescue, while the Athens, Hartselle and Moulton fire departments do not employ any women.

Those who do the hiring said women are simply not applying.

“I don’t know why we’re not getting any female applicants,” Athens Fire Chief Bryan Thornton said.

The U.S Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics says only 3.5 percent of the nation’s firefighters were women in 2017, down from 5.3 percent in 2007.

In contrast, the Decatur Police Department has 10 sworn women officers out of 130 on the force, while Athens Police has one full-time sworn woman officer and three women serving as reserves.

Decatur Fire Chief Tony Grande said firefighting has always been a male-dominated field. He said he hasn’t had more than one or two women apply with his department since he became chief in 2014.

“Perhaps the young ladies don’t think about firefighting as a potential career,” Grande said.

Johnson, who as division chief holds the second-highest rank in Decatur Fire & Rescue, said there are many reasons women don’t apply. After working in a broom factory and as an emergency medical technician with an ambulance service, she became a firefighter 24 years ago.

“It can be a real physical job that’s hot and dirty,” Johnson said. “And some can’t pass the physical and agility test.”

Firefighters in the paid departments are required to pass a state physical test as part of certification. The physical test simulates many of the tasks a firefighter might have to perform, like climbing to extreme heights or carrying a weighted dummy.

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *