Female Firefighter Recruitment: An Insight
Female Firefighter Recruitment Australia: An insight Into Becoming a Firefighter For Women
Interviews with Female Firefighters from DFES
This transcript of interview from female firefighters will give you an idea of the experiences these ladies have had with female firefighter recruitment and their journey so far. It is a great idea to read through their experiences if you are considering becoming a firefighter. It is an exciting time for female firefighter recruitment in Australia.
It’s a great team environment, gave me a new lease on life.
It’s the best job I’ve ever had, never looked back.
It’s an amazing career. I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Male vs Female Firefighter Requirements
The question of male vs female firefighter requirements comes up from time to time so I thought I’d answer the question here if it’ sone you have wondered about.
Simply female firefighter requirements are no different to their male counterparts as far as entry requirements go.
The only difference around female firefighters as far as requirements go is in relation to the fire service providing a safe workplace if the female firefighter becomes pregnant. This is the only area of difference that comes to mind, it may also flow into the return to work plans.
Female Firefighter Insight
My name is Martine Pearman. I’ve been in the fire service now for 4 years. Why do I like being a firefighter? It’s really challenging. It’s a fantastic experience, a great career choice.
I applied to be a firefighter when I was 19 years old. I was in England, and it was very half-hearted. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Then I didn’t get through. I didn’t even get anywhere with that. Then I didn’t even really think about it too much until I came to Australia, and I knew then this is for me. I’m going to do it, and I’m going to get in.
My name is Claire Finucane. I’ve been in the service 16 years now. I did a bachelor in education and taught for a short time before I changed jobs.
My name is Pippa Williams. I’m a senior firefighter, and I have been employed in the WA Fire and Rescue Service for 11 years.
My name is April Jane Littlerick, and I’ve been in the job for nearly a year and a half now. I’ve always wanted to become a firefighter. It was just a matter of becoming old enough to be a firefighter, and start applying. My dad’s been a firefighter for a really long time, and I’ve always looked up to him and seen how much he enjoys the job, and his friends enjoy the job.
If you’re wondering if this could be the job for you, I’ve been in this job 2 and a half years. I’m 36 years old, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had, never looked back.
I was so glad that I had made that transition from teaching to becoming a fiery, because it gave me a new lease on life, and I was just energised and re-motivated again. That’s what this job does.
Well, there’s nothing I don’t really like about being a firefighter. I love the sense of family, every day I go to work. I wake up every morning thinking I’ve the best job in the world. There’s never a day I wake up and go, “Oh, I have to go to work.” I love my job.
The application process, I think, was going to be hard for everyone. I applied twice, and the whole way was … I just focused on it. I trained a whole year in advance from my from my application then I ended up getting in.
I think from the minute you put an application in to become a firefighter, you’re looked upon as being equal to the males that are also applying, and that was the case for me the whole way through the process. To the day I finished training, we were on the same level as the guys, and expected to do exactly the same thing. You need to be quite strong, and you need to be mentally strong, I think, as well. Physical and mental strength are important.
To females trying to apply, if you feel like you can’t lift a 20 kilo weight, don’t stress about it. How would you put it? It’s all practical to the job, so all I recommend doing is getting old of what the actual physical process is, and going to your local fire station, getting them to show you everything. If you don’t feel strong enough, just work out. I did. Originally I wasn’t tough. I wasn’t anything, and I wouldn’t say I’m tough now, but I just kept working at it.
For the whole process, learn as much as you can about the job through the sources available, so online, talking to people, talking to administrative staff, and really have a clear understanding if it’s a type of job that you want to enter into in the first place. Then to really be honest with yourself, and decide are you the type of person that would be suitable for that type of job.
Training as a Female Firefighter
At the time that I entered into the school, I was playing water polo for Australia, so I was very fit, which was a real benefit. I was also training and had other commitments, and it was unrealistic of me to think that I could do both, because I was tired from training in the morning after doing a full day of physical activity at the academy. If you do get into the academy, you really have to focus all your attention on that period of your life, and trying to focus all your time and attention to that, because you don’t have time for anything else.
You don’t have energy for anything else because you’re fatigued physically, and you’re fatigued mentally throughout the process. That’s part of the test, that you can operate while you’re fatigued in an effective manner.
Once you get through the training, it’s around 3, 3 and a half months. It was a bit like this, some bits were really hard, some bits I found easier.
For me, personally, the physical side of it, I coped quite well with. I’m quite physically fit, so it wasn’t really a challenge. It was more the mechanical side of things. That was something I had to work hard at.
Personally, in my recruit school of 12, there were 3 of us who had no previous firefighting experience. Coming from zero background with firefighting, there were some issues that I did find challenging, but the teamwork and the level of instruction was fantastic. I definitely felt that I wasn’t being left behind at all, and was getting those skills along the same lines as everyone else.
If we can do it in a nice, clear voice, because obviously the person … This could be a pile that could be 3 or 4 stories thick.
Some tips on surviving the school, don’t ignore your own limits. There was a couple of points where I reached my limit, and now I know. Don’t get to that point. You let people know if you’re struggling. Everyone’s there to help you. You’ve got your family and friends there. You’ve got the instructors. They’re always there to help you, so if you’re struggling, you must let someone know. Everyone’s only there to help you.
I like the career of a firefighter as the idea of going to work every day and not knowing what the day has in store for me is appealing. It’s also a very positive and well respected career in the community. I like being able to assist the community in times of need.
An average day shift for me would be to turn up for work, check all the equipment that you’re going to be using, so all the trucks. Then usually a gym work out, then sometimes we go out and service the hydrants, so painting the inches, and checking that they’re not clogged up with sand, and that kind of thing. We do building inspections. We do training out in the yard, drilling, and school visits. There’s lots of things that we do as well on top of our calls. Then in the afternoon, I might be doing some of my course work, my study notes, my study assignments, because you’re studying for the first 5 years, so need to tell you that as well.
Female Firefighter Recruitment Video – “Girls on Fire”
When you first start as a firefighter, you’re not fully trained. You have just started your training. They have 5 years of firefighter development program, which is all the Australian standards, plus the agency’s state specific requirements.
Then after that, there is professional development opportunities to go to station officer level, or to go into a specialist branch like rescue, hazardous material, community education, media.
There’s a lot of opportunities if you choose to take those up after you finish your complete studies as a firefighter.
The days are generally filed with training, operational readiness, things like that. Night shift is the same thing. We come in, and then we come out, check the appliances, all the same thing. We go to the gym, and then after that, training. Then we have a sit around the table. We have our dinner together. I think the night times are really when we start to feel we are a family.
Working as a firefighter and station officer in the operational fire and rescue service isn’t like a normal Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job. You do work shifts. You do work weekends and public holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Eve.
Some birthdays or school and social functions, you may have to forgo sometimes.
On the other hand, you do have a very positive part of working shifts, which is you do have time available when other people don’t necessarily have time free.
The type of job you get sometimes can vary depending on which station you’re at. For example, in town, you get lots of alarm calls. The buildings have the direct brigade alarm, so you turn up to those, have to find out where the alarm’s gone off. Is it a real fire? Is it a fault? Is it workmen in the building? We get the traffic accidents.
We turn up to those, sometimes have to get the cutters and the spreaders out and assist the ambulance service. The police are usually there as well.
Obviously you get house fires and other structure fires, car fires, bush fires, and you get things like cats stuck in trees. It does happen, so it’s a big range of jobs we get.
18 months into the job, I feel a lot more comfortable than what I did when I first came out. You come out of the school, and you’re taught everything you need to know to fight a fire, rescue someone out of a car, but you still feel like there is so much to learn.
I feel a lot more comfortable now jumping into one of these appliances and going to a job than I did at the start. I’m not saying that you wouldn’t feel comfortable when you first got out the school, but it’s just every time the bells go off, I don’t have to pull myself off the ceiling. That’s all I have to say. The job’s going to get more comfortable every single day that you work.
Being operational on shift does require you to have a high level of self-motivation, because there are times when people aren’t always going to push you to something all the time.
You have to do it yourself. You have to study yourself. You have to make sure you complete your training requirements yourself and within the team, but it does rely heavily on you being a motivated person.
I would say a difficult day at work was something like a bush fire where you’re working hard all shift for the whole of the shift. You have to really try and keep your fluids up, because you can get dehydrated so quickly. You’re dragging a hose around through the bush. It’s hard, and it’s hot, and can’t breathe very well, the [smokey 00:12:47], but it’s worth it. At the end of the day, you finish your shift, you feel like you’ve done a good job. You’ve done something.
A bad day is going out and seeing something unexpected, something that takes you aback. It’s going to end up being a bad day, but like I said, you’ve got all your friends around you, so they turn it into a good day after that.
Over the period of 16 years, I’ve attended maybe 50 fatalities. That hasn’t always been easy, and even talking about it now, I can feel a little bit emotional. I have talked to my family about it. I have talked to my partners about it, and friends, and also we talk at work within the team. We help each other and support each other.
In place, there are systems to assist, and I’ve chosen to take them up at times. There are psychologists available to talk to, and I’ve chosen to speak to those psychologists when I feel the need. That has helped me as well.
Being a Female Firefighter
Being female, sometimes you can sense that maybe the guys were talking about something that wasn’t female orientated, and they might quiet down when you walk in. I mean, it’s like they haven’t heard me talk. Jesus, I shouldn’t say that.
I don’t want to get special treatment because I’m female, so I’m pretty sure it’s the same. Sometimes it’s funny when a guy’s having a shower or something. He might walk out with a pair of boxers on and forget that you’re there. I mean, I don’t really care at all, but sometimes they get a bit embarrassed. It’s quite funny.
I think there’s a few boxes that need to be ticked. You need to be strong willed. You need to be motivated as an individual. I think physically, for me, that’s one of the major things as a female.
You need to be strong enough to be able to do this job. The physical demands are quite intense, and if you don’t have that, then you can’t do things like slip a ladder or lift the tools. Generally, if you’re doing a rescue, being able to lift someone out the building, or your fellow firefighter, if you’re in there and they get injured, you need to be able to drag them out.
If you can’t do those basic things as a male or female firefighter, then you’re unable to do the job. I think being versatile and being able to work in a male dominated workplace, it’s important that you are strong minded, and you’re able to adapt to that situation.
For me, the job gives me satisfaction. I think it is probably harder for a female because without being sexist, we are not as big and as strong as the guys, but it’s not just about being strong and big. It’s about thinking. It’s about helping people. If you’ve got the right attitude, then there’s no reason why you can’t do it, show those boys.
Family and Being a Female Firefighter
I have 3 children. I have 3 boys, one 8 year old, 5 year old, and a 2 year old. I’ve had all of my children while I’ve been employed in the fire and rescue service.
Personally the shift work, and juggling work and family life, I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way the shift work is structured, it does offer a high level of flexibility.
Having a family was always going to be something that I had planned on, and a career in the fire service at no time swayed me from that thinking. I did feel supported the whole way through.
Coming back to work as well, the support from the fire station that I work at and management was always 100%. Just because you’ve had children doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of being a fire fighter. I think every time that I’ve returned after having my children, I’ve been better. I’ve been stronger, and I just love coming to work, and I think it does make me a better mother. I know that my children absolutely love the fact that they can come and visit the fire station, and they’re very proud that their mom is a firefighter.
Here is an article from the ABC on a female firefighter named Melinda Sharpe and her experience doing recruits and raising 3 kids
Working Through the Ranks as a Female Firefighter
I’ve enjoyed my entire career as a fire fighter and station officer. There were some big challenges initially, and society was changing at the time, as was the culture and society within the job.
I think that in this day and age, we’ve moved along really well. I dare say it used to happen. I’ve heard a few stories. However, I can’t say as though I’m looked upon in any other light than being treated with respect.
One thing I would have to advise females today on the job is you have to be confident about speaking out what you are comfortable with and what you’re uncomfortable with. That’s also in society.
If you accept something, then it will happen again. If you’re not willing to accept something, you must speak out about it, and there are systems and means in place to ensure people can work together effectively, and everyone is treated equally.
Working in a male dominated environment, I often get asked that question. Personally, I prefer working with men. Within this environment, as a firefighter, there’s a lot of team work that needs to be undertaken. Generally the males that I’ve worked with have been fantastic. They’re very supportive. They take care of you and look out for you.
I feel like my future in the fire service is going to be a long one. I love this job. I love being able to learn every single day. I still have so many more things I can qualify on. I’ve already qualified on the heavy rescue, the foam trailer, high expansion foam trailer.
It’s just so broad of a service, so many resources that I can learn from. Even once I become a senior firefighter, I can spend the rest of my career as a senior firefighter, and just keep learning, keep absorbing knowledge, and keep trying new things. That’s a fantastic part about the job.
The rewards from being a firefighter are endless. You just feel a sense of achievement every single day.
I hope this has given you an insight into Female Firefighter recruitment within Australia and has left you more informed of what it is you may expect on your personal journey.