Fire fighting: a woman’s job

Fire fighting is a dangerous and often difficult job. However, we live in a world where devastating fires become more and more frequent due to climate change and questionable forest management decisions. Due to this, the role of fire fighters on the ground, giving their everything to protect people and nature, becomes also more important. But did you know that fire fighting is as much a job for women like it is for men?

Please also read: Women and the climate emergency

It all started in the 19th century

Firefighting has historically been a predominantly male profession throughout the world. However, the first female firefighter known of was Molly Williams, who was a slave in New York City and became a member of a volunteer fire department in about 1815. Especially since the 1970s, women have frequently joined professional and volunteer fire departments in many countries. Today, women serve in a variety of fire service roles including fire chiefs. For example, more than 6,500 women now hold career firefighting and fire officer’s positions in the United States, with hundreds of counterparts in other countries throughout the world. Nonetheless, they still comprise less than 20% of firefighters even in the countries where they are best represented.

Fire fighting more important than ever

The frequency and intensity of forest fires are increasing all over Europe and across the world, mainly due to climate change. There are two main factors that cause burning forests: Heat and drought. Both factors showed a trend of increasing magnitudes over the last years. Especially in the last two years the Iberian Peninsula, France, Greece, Central Europe and Scandinavia all suffered from large-scale fires. It is obvious that well-trained fire fighters are more needed than ever.

Women and men on the ground, fighting the fires, have to face tremendous challenges everyday. The old fashioned believe that women cannot pull their share in such dangerous jobs can be clearly rejected. They are equal to men in every aspect of their work. A video produced by Wondercamp and supported by REI Co-op displays this quite vividly, watch it below! However, they are still fighting for the acceptance and appreciation of their competences from their colleagues and the public. As Europe is more and more confronted by forest fires, we must have an open mind to include and also promote females in these jobs. Not only 10 – 20%, but at least 50%!

The European Wilderness Society also recently submitted a project proposal to strengthen the fire fighting and management capabilities of a National Park in Georgia. Of course, we will also encourage the inclusion of female fire fighters, should this project be approved.

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