The California Fire Service March-April 2023

THE CALIFORNIA FIRE SERVICE MAGAZINE • MARCH/APRIL 2023 • 17 Cover Feature - Continued from page 8 than mine. There are still times to this day where men will not acknowledge me. It has happened in my department, and a few in neighboring departments when taking classes or on strike teams. Unfortunately, I expect it from the older generation of firefighters who still perceive the job as one being for “men only.” Furthermore, there are some who still refuse to admit that women are just as capable if not more capable than them to do the job. They do not know me or my work ethic, or the path that I took to be where I am today. I never expect that sort of mistreatment from men around my age or members who have 5-15 years on the job. Whatever their reason, it doesn’t matter to me. I go on with my day knowing that I never want anyone to feel what that feels like. Working with and listening to one another, we can make the future better regardless of the “fireman” holding people back. Again, I must acknowledge and profusely thank the women who came before me at the Oakland Fire Department who made my path less emotionally painful and treacherous. I think it is safe to say most men are slow to welcome women into “their” department and even more hesitant to invite them on their crew. A lot of departments claim to be diverse, and their application process is open to everyone. Equality and Equity are always buzz words. Yet, after reading many definitions online, I believe that my city gives everyone the same resources and opportunities to succeed as well as being treated fair and impartial. Next is inclusion; According to IAFC, “people being accepted, having positive interactions with one’s peers and being valued for who they are”3. Every administration can claim their department is inclusive, but only the boots on the ground can speak to validating that assertion. Inclusive and belonging have yet to take root in a lot of agencies. Women are still referred to as “firemen or hosemen. Terminology is important to the fight for inclusion and belonging in the fire service. Fire Chiefs in many agencies still use the term fireman. My department still struggles with having every station have a locker room or bathroom specific for women. They get labeled as non-gender specific bathrooms, allowing anyone in the firehouse to use them. Because of this, in some instances, there are not any specific accommodations for women and the nongender specific locker rooms or restrooms are dirty and or in poor condition. Many women still struggle and fight for PPE that are properly fitted and designed for women which include but are not limited to turnouts, boots, wool pants, and wildland PPE. As women, we know the struggles that our fellow women face, and we do our best to help one another succeed, fight the odds and make the fire service better for everyone. We understand what those before us have endured and what others still go through today in 2023. Unity is critically important and as human beings, we have to band together to make the fire service better for all members, and not just women. We understand some of the issues that fire service members experience due to their size, ethnicity or orientation. There have been many women firefighter mentor groups that have introduced to the public and young girls the extraordinary career opportunity of being a firefighter. These camps allow young girls the opportunity to see that they too can grow up and become a firefighter. Another aspect of mentoring is to encourage career firefighters to test for promotions and climb up the organizational ladder. There are programs like Women in Fire, NorCal First Alarm Girls Fire Camp, Golden State Women in the Fire Service and Women’s Fire Alliance to name a few. These programs foster positive relationships among women interested in the fire service. No matter what stage that one may be in, there are resources and women who have paved the way to assist you in becoming successful. Unfortunately, there are still men in the profession who cringe when they hear about these life changing opportunities or think that it is just women complaining or conspiring to figurative take out men. In today’s time, it’s disappointing that this is the thought processes of some of my fire service family members. We know these same members probably said in an interview that they would do anything to make the department better! Another unfortunate fact is that in 2023, we are still celebrating the FIRST as it pertains to women. The first female hire, the first African American hire or promoted for that matter. While these may be joyful moments we must ask ourselves, WHY and as female firefighters we must commit to one another that this is something that we all will strive to change. Departments should represent the diverse communities that they serve. As I mentioned above, these were my personal experiences. I know that I strive every day to make the fire service better for all, and especially the women. SOURCES 1: 2: been%20firefighters%20for,Company%20%2311%20in%20 about%201815. 3: service,heard%20and%20respected.(1) About the author: Nicole McCall is a lieutenant with Oakland Fire Department assigned to Station 12B serving downtown and Chinatown. She also serves as the chair of the CSFA Leadership Equity Diversity Service (LEDS) Committee and is Vice President of The Oakland Women & Nonbinary firefighters (TOWN).