Celebrating women firefighters at the Calgary Fire Department

International Women’s Day 2020

When your house is on fire, or you’re trapped in a vehicle, or you’re in medical distress, do you care who responds just as long as they are fully qualified to do their job, and they come to help you at what could be one of the worst moments of your life?

Firefighting isn’t always top-of-mind for women when choosing a career, but it can be a great profession. Calgary’s first female firefighter qualified for, and joined the department, in 1989. The department currently employs 40 female firefighters who work in a variety of capacities from Firefighter to Assistant Deputy Chief.

Females are treated no differently than males when being considered for a career with the Calgary Fire Department. All firefighter candidates, regardless of gender, must pass the same rigorous fitness, medical, physical, aptitude, personal history evaluation, as well as legal requirements, in order to ensure they can best serve citizens in times of crisis.

In talking to some of Calgary’s current female firefighters about their career choice, here’s what we heard…

What is the best thing about being a firefighter?

  • Problem solving – every call is different and requires a team effort to work together and solve the problem at hand, variety, excitement, and all while helping people.
  • The camaraderie - being part of something much bigger than yourself, with years of history and tradition, helping others in their time of greatest need.
  • That sense of security we can give people who are in need - no matter what you are struggling with, we will come to you, right away, with a team of willing people, and a truck full of tools, and a desire to just fix that problem.
  • It’s a simple human need, and no matter the severity of your emergency, we are here to help you, and we won’t leave until the critical nature of your problem has passed.

What is the weirdest question you have ever been asked when you are identified as a female firefighter?

  • Are you on a high school ride-a-long?
  • Are you part of a special fire department just for women?
  • What do I call you…you’re not a “fire-man” are you?
  • Oh, you’re a girl. Are you fully trained?

What made you want to become a firefighter?

  • The challenge of pushing myself both physically and mentally to be the best I can be.
  • Having a career that lets me help people, use my hands-on skills, which gives me great job satisfaction.
  • Having a career where all my diverse skills and interests can contribute to the “problem solving” nature of the job. It takes all kinds of people.
  • A varied, physically challenging job, that is a helping profession.

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?

  • Going above and beyond what is required and doing all I can to make a positive impact with every interaction I have whether on a call or in public.
  • Seeing young girls and young women realize that they can do this job too, because they met you.
  • Being a role model to young women and girls.
  • Being part of a team that saves lives, against the odds. Imagining that the person you helped gets to spend ‘bonus’ time with their family makes me feel good.
  • The relationships and family within the department that has become my world.

What has been the most challenging experience of your career?

  • Witnessing the raw emotion of pain and suffering.
  • Difficult calls involving children are always the worst.
  • Living with doubt and questioning my choices in critical situations. Learning who I am and who I have to be and knowing that I have control.

What is the one word you would say best describes a female firefighter?

  • Resilient, determined, brave, firefighter!