The California Fire Service March-April 2023

he success and contributions of women should be celebrated every day of the year; however, March has been designated as the month that women are recognized around the globe. In that spirit, this article highlights some amazing accomplishments that remarkable women have made over the years. Women in the fire service trace back to 1818 when Mollie Williams served Oceanus 11 in New York City making her the first known woman and African-American woman to serve as a firefighter. Several decades later in 1858, Lillie Hitchcock Coit from San Francisco “at 15 years old, began her famous career with Knickerbocker Engine Company #5.”1 According to Women In Fire, “By the mid-1970’s, women were becoming career firefighters throughout the country. Among them were a number of African American women, including Genois Wilson of Fort Wayne, Indiana who was hired in 1975 and Toni McIntosh who started a year later in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”2 History shows women who have served with honor and bravery throughout the country in various roles throughout the fire service. As a woman in the fire service, I can honestly say growing up in northern California I never saw a female firefighter nor even knew that women could be firefighters. Frankly, I didn’t think that women couldn’t be firefighters; I just never thought of women serving as “firefighters.” I grew up operating heavy equipment with my dad (mostly shovels for me), riding motorcycles, fishing, and hunting. Pretty much, any and everything that my dad did. In essence, I was the son that he didn’t have (as of T THE CALIFORNIA FIRE SERVICE MAGAZINE • MARCH/APRIL 2023 • 7 Some of Oakland Fire Department’s women firefighters. yet anyway). Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to go to college because I didn’t like being in the sun and dirt anymore. I went to college and earned a B.S. in Business Administration and Marketing. I spent a little over a year in an office setting when I realized that I needed and wanted something more in life. I had a couple of buddies who had enrolled into Emergency Medical Technician class (EMT) and convinced me to register for another semester of college which was by far the most difficult class I had ever taken, especially while working two jobs. After completing my EMT, I went to the California Fire Rescue Training Authority Firefighter 1 Academy that was hosted by Sacramento Metro Fire. The fire academy was 21 weeks long. This training was the most physically and mentally challenging thing that I had ever experienced. When I started the academy, there were five women in the program. After the first week, that number dropped down to 2. Being a firefighter was challenging and depending on who is leading the Academy, it can be very Cover Feature A peek into women in the fire service and one personal journey By Nicole McCall