[NBC-2 October 25, 2018/Gabrielle Dawkins]
Local firefighters are trying to fight major gender inequity within their ranks.
Nationally only 3.5 percent of full time firefighters are women and only 7 percent of volunteer firefighters are women.
Being a female firefighter isn’t about just hopping on a fire truck to fight fires, it’s about saving lives. The firefighters at North Collier Fire and Rescue and Immokalee Fire Control District want to educate young women about the opportunities.
Dozens of young girls at the PACE Center for Girls, an alternative school focused on getting young girls caught up academically, crowded around a firetruck and took notes on what it takes to become a firefighter.
“It’s not just about saving houses, it’s about people,” 15-year-old Mariah Gonzalez said.
Heather L. Mazurkiewicz, the public information officer for North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District, said that this industry is historically a male dominant profession, but she enjoys sharing the opportunities with other young women.
“Now that we’re honing more into also not just fires, but we’re playing big roles in emergency management… playing big roles in the medical profession that there have been a lot more opportunities,” Mazurkiewicz said.
There’s a six-month program to become a firefighter and in order to get hired you have to be EMT certified, which can take about three to six months depending on the program.
Students at the event shared that they walked away with a better understanding of what it is like to be firefighter.
“I think they understand the profession a lot better than they did before,” Mazurkiewicz said. “If they want to do it, they can certainly be a part of this profession.”
Opportunities like administrative work, accounting, technology, and digging into data is offered within this field.
Currently at North Collier Fire and Rescue there are four females versus the 150 men on duty, mirroring the less than 4 percent of women nationwide employed as firefighters.
“A lot of guys they say oh that women can’t be as best as us, but there’s actually some women that can actually do it and be on the top,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said that the motivation she received today will stay with her for years to come.
“It actually feels really good. I get the motivation. I want to become something in life not just a stay at home person,” Gonzalez said.