Women firefighters often rely on technique over brawn

Battling flames, wearing 50 pounds of gear, and running up and down burning buildings may not be every little girl’s dream, but the notion of becoming a damsel in distress is also growing out of style.

In the Las Vegas Valley, women are challenging the standards that firefighters have to be tall, muscular men. Instead, they use their wits, brains and other techniques to serve their community.

“Becoming a firefighter isn’t a traditional role that women take, but they absolutely can do it,” said Henderson Fire Captain Kim Moore. “You need to be thick-skinned at times, have a lot of dedication and have the desire to take care of people in their time of need. You won’t get anything handed to you just because you’re a girl. It takes hard work and strength.”

Moore became inspired to enter the field by her father, who worked as a firefighter for 19 years in North Las Vegas.

At 5-foot-3-inches tall, Moore worked as a dispatcher and EMT at MERCY Ambulance before entering paramedic school and interning under Henderson Fire Department Battalion Chief Doug Koopman, who she said inspired her to enter the field.

She initially failed the physical test, but she passed the second time and was hired as one of Henderson’s first female firefighter paramedics in 1995.

Moore was promoted to engineer during Christmas of 2000, and seven years later, she was promoted again to the city’s fire captain.

“You have to be at the top of your game and know what’s going on because you compete right along with all of the guys,” Moore said. “The first time I tested as captain, I was not selected, and it burns, but I didn’t feel like they were being biased. They just want the best candidates for the job.”

Nationwide, women firefighters have filed a number of suits alleging sexual harassment or gender bias in promotions. Moore said she’s never experienced any sexual harassment.

Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said promotions in the fire department are tough to come by because there’s not a lot of vertical movement in the field compared to other industries.

“In the Clark County Fire Department, as many as 1,000 people have applied to be a firefighter when we only had 20 openings in previous years,” said Tim Szymanski, the department’s spokesman. “The number of openings varies as well as people applying, but there is always a significant number of people that apply.”

Because firefighters work 24-hour shifts and sleep in a dorm by the kitchen with little to no privacy, it can be an uncomfortable situation, but Moore said it helps form a close bond.

“We’re right next to the stinky boys who are snoring,” Moore said. “I don’t mean to make it sound like a cliche, but these are truly like my brothers. We’re a family. We tease each other all of the time.”

There’s also the emotional aspect of the job, which can affect anyone, regardless of gender.

“The hardest moments I’ve faced were the individual calls I couldn’t help,” Moore said. “It’s difficult to see a child who’s not breathing on the floor or see someone with blood everywhere, but we’re there to do a job and work with the patient.”

Jacqueline Palmer, 37, a firefighter at the Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Station 10, became a firefighter by chance.

At 26, while working as a guide for Pink Jeep Tours, she was refueling her vehicle when she saw a fire engine pull up. The following day, she found out that the city was hiring, and she made the leap toward a new career.

“My whole life was geared toward becoming a basketball coach or athletic trainer,” said Palmer, who has a master’s degree in sport psychology. “The first time I touched fire equipment was during the actual test. I had no plans to become a firefighter, but I just fell in love with it. I like the challenge.”

Palmer passed the test on her first try at 27. Perhaps the most challenging part is the Candidate Physical Ability Test. It may seem that the physical aspect of the training regime favors men over women; however, Palmer doesn’t see it that way.

“The test doesn’t weed out women; it weeds out people who aren’t strong enough,” Palmer said. “It’s very close to what the job is, so if you can’t pass the test, then you can’t do the job.

“I know I’m not as strong as the men are, and I know I have to work harder, but that’s on me because this is the job that I chose to do. I don’t weight as much, and I don’t have as much upper body strength, so I have to compensate for that with different techniques.”

Palmer admits that pursing a career largely dominated by men who are “mostly Type A personalities” can be intimidating.

“People need to get past the stereotype that women can’t work out or shouldn’t work out,” Palmer said. “Women can absolutely do this type of work if they put their mind to it. The biggest thing is the mentality to not quit. When working in a fire, it’s hard; it’s hot and uncomfortable, but you have to keep working beyond your exhaustion point. Normal people, when they get tired, they stop, but we have to be able to not pay attention to that and work beyond.”

Jasmine Ghazinour, 35, became a firefighter after following in her mother’s footsteps.

“My mom volunteered in the fire service department, and I thought ‘why not get paid to do something she loved?’ It was a bonus for me,” Ghazinour said.

She took the firefighter test at age 27 with a broken right arm and passed.

“I weighed 125 pounds, and I got through it with a broken arm,” Ghazinour said. “If I can do it, anyone can do it, not just males. I think people think of firefighters as looking like those bulky guys in the firefighter bachelor calendars who weigh 250 pounds, but anyone can be a firefighter. It’s like anything in life: You just have to work hard at it.”

Ghazinour, a mother of two, said female firefighters could be put on desk and office duties during pregnancy.

A good way to explore if firefighting is the right career choice is to do what Henderson firefighter Bridgette Cota did and join the fire department’s Explorer Program, designed for youths 16 to 21 to participate in fire ground skills, academic studies, team-building exercises and ride-alongs.

“The program trained me really well for the academy,” Cota said. “I already knew what to expect during the physical training and what areas to work on. Now that I’m a firefighter, I feel like I have hundreds of older brothers and father-like figures.”

Las Vegas Valley female firefighter statistics break down as follows:

— The Henderson Fire Department has 244 full-time staff members, with 208 working in fire and rescue operations; and 20 of the 244 are women. Currently, there are four women firefighters in the department with a soon-to-be fifth graduating from the cadet academy.

— Out of the 250 people interviewed for its current academy, the Henderson Fire Department hired 17, according to Richards.

— The first female firefighter was hired in 1987.

— The Las Vegas Fire Department has 705 full-time staff members, including 85 full-time female employees and 620 full-time males. Currently, there are 28 full-time female firefighters and 544 male firefighters.

— The first female fire inspector, Jeanne Schmitz, was hired on June 6, 1971, and the first female firefighters hired were Ellen Goldsmith, Linda Curtin and Diane Moyes on April 22, 1985. Moyes went on to become the first female battalion chief for Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, according to Szymanski.

— The Clark County Fire Department has 684 full-time staff members, including 40 full-time female employees and 644 full-time males. Currently, there are 621 24-hour firefighting personnel, excluding command staff, which consists of 18 full-time female firefighters and 603 male firefighters.

— From 2008 to 2012, roughly 3.8 percent of paid firefighters in the U.S were women, according to the National Fire Prevention Association’s website, nfpa.org. The 2010 U.S. Census put that number at 4.8 percent.

Testing to become a Nevada firefighter consists of a written examination, physical ability test, oral board interview, medical exam, background check and suitability exam.

“I think females bring a different perspective to the job,” Cota said. “We have a different way of relating to patients. At the end of the day, the gratitude we receive from the community we serve makes all of our training and hard work worth it. It’s definitely a rewarding job.”

— To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email slopez@viewnews.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
3 Centennial High School students killed in Calif. crash (Full)
Three Centennial High School students were killed Thursday morning in Southern California when their vehicle was struck by a suspected drunken driver while they were enjoying their spring break, according to a family member of one of the victims.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Life
Bark-Andre Furry meets Capitals superfan Ovie the Bulldog
Two of NHL's furriest fans met at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace on Tuesday, June 18, 2018, in Las Vegas. Vegas Golden Knights superfan Bark-Andre Furry and Washington Capitals superfan Ovie the Bulldog shared a plate of meatballs and spaghetti with help from Logan, "The Girl with the Hat." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like