The California Fire Service March-April 2023

8 • THE CALIFORNIA FIRE SERVICE MAGAZINE • MARCH/APRIL 2023 Continued on page 17 paramilitary. Although some view this as unnecessary, I believe it is essential in preparing candidates mentally for things that firefighters encounter on a daily basis. Every woman in the process realizes the fire service is a male dominated profession, and we are reminded of this every time we go to a written or physical agility test, proficiency or certification class or even an out-of-county deployment for a mutual aid response. I have been employed with the Oakland Fire Department for nine years and will speak of my experiences, but recognizing that every woman, every minority, and every person has had a different and unique experience during their pursuit to becoming a career firefighter. After graduating from my FF1 Academy I applied to work for Cameron Park Fire/ Cal Fire AEU as a resident firefighter. I worked there for $40 a shift for a minimum of 2 shifts a week where we trained daily, and I got to apply what I learned in Academy to real life experiences. What was nice was that I was not the only woman, and felt I was treated fairly. As I started this residency, I also applied to work for the California Fire Rescue Training Authority as a Logistics Specialist where I worked under CAL OES Chiefs and was in charge of helping facilitate classroom classes as well as rescue, water, USAR classes, etc. This experience allowed me to network, learn and stay sharp with many specialized tools and equipment. I did this for a little over 2 years before I accepted an employment opportunity with the Oakland Fire Department. When I started Oakland’s process, the department had approximately 5 percent sworn women including a female fire chief. This wasn’t something I was considering when I applied. Like everyone else, I knew that this was my dream department and would do anything to work for the city! I ended up taking the first job offer that I received which happened to be with the City of Oakland. Was I lucky? Did I get the job because I was a woman? I didn’t care what everyone else said nor what their opinion was. I knew that I could perform the job and “holding my own” amongst all of my peers. I knew that I had prepared for the position, and had passed all the same requirements as everyone else who was standing next to me on the first day of the Academy. In my Academy there were 25 recruits, 4 of us being women and 1 non-binary firefighter. All 25 were sworn in as probationary firefighters on July of 2014. Oakland currently has about 32 sworn women across all ranks. We have had a female in every rank from fire chief to probationary firefighter. We have also had some of our female firefighters move on to other departments. My experience with Oakland has not been easy, and I cannot compare it to other departments that have no females or departments where you may have been the first female hired for your department. Oakland Fire Department has had women since the late 1970’s. These women were subjected to unwarranted comments, hazing, and unrealistic expectations but survived and endured and helped pave the way for future women such as myself. My probation was 18 months long. During these 18 months I worked across the city spending a month at the various stations in each of the 3 battalions. In hindsight, I would say that I was fortunate. For the most part, I was treated like my male counterparts. I never felt singled out nor pushed beyond unacceptable limits of behavior; however, I know that many women have experiences vastly different Oakland FD Engineer Koshman checking in on the author on her first multi alarm fire as an Engineer. History shows women who have served with honor and bravery throughout the country in various roles throughout the fire service.