Women have been making history as firefighters for almost 200 years. One of the first female firefighters in recorded history is Molly Williams, an American slave from New York City who served as a member of Oceanus Engine Company No. 11 in 1815. The fire service has long been viewed as a big family and that is truer than ever with the inclusion of women in fire departments across the U.S. and the world.
Despite the push for diversity in the fire service, less than 5 percent of career firefighters across the U.S. are women, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Fire departments must continue to strive for inclusivity in the workforce to provide a higher level of service and better understand community needs. With more life experiences and ideas in the mix, firefighters can become more flexible, proactive, and adaptable. It’s clear the fire and emergency medical services (EMS) have made remarkable strides toward improving diversity and inclusivity, but there’s still room for improvement.
1. Why were you inspired to become a firefighter?
My mom’s side of the family has a lot of firefighters, and I’ve always thought it was so cool. After joining the military, I learned that I love working within a team and doing tasks that people don’t usually get to call their job. I started as a volunteer firefighter at a local department and did so for three years. Then, I passed the test for Rockford Fire Department and have worked there full-time for almost five and a half years!
2. How did you prepare for your career as a firefighter to be equipped to build, serve, and lead within the fire service?
My dad inspired me as a teenager to start working out, so I’ve had that in my background for a long time and have developed a serious love for it. I coach CrossFit part-time, and that type of exercise has set me up for success as a firefighter. CrossFit also gave me the confidence to know what I'm physically and mentally capable of doing! I’m also very health-conscious about what I eat and what I know will help me feel my best.
3. What do you hope to accomplish by being a woman in the fire service?
As a woman in the fire service, I hope to show other women out there that if you’re willing to put in the work, you can do this! But, also to know that if you go this route, you have to be able to do the job and be confident. I don’t take my career lightly, and as an instructor (for IFSI), I always make that a point to the students.
4. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Today, women are more capable and independent than ever. I love that. It’s awesome to see women out in the world who aren’t afraid to work hard for what they have or want to achieve. On International Women’s Day, I remember who I am and all the things I’ve gotten to experience in my life because of my mentality.
We appreciate every woman in fire for her invaluable contribution to the service and our communities.