FAIRFAX, Va. (WDVM) — About 12% of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is female. The department is beating the national average, which sits at just 3%, and they’re not stopping there.
“It’s relative,” said Chief John Butler. “We’re doing better than the national, but embarrassingly, not enough. Not in the fire service overall. We still have a long way to go.”
Its annual camp for young women from the 7th to rising 11th grade teaches students about medical emergency education, engine company operations like ladder trucks, and rescue squad operations, like cutting open a car to rescue a trapped passenger.
Camp co-founder Captain Tracey Reed says fire and rescue training is the exact same for female and male trainees. “The fire doesn’t care if you’re male or female. The hazards are the same,” said Reed.
Rising 12th-grade student Joane Chavez has participated every year since the camp started. She was recently approved to volunteer for the Vienna station, which will allow her to ride along in ambulances.
“I think it’s just overcoming those mental challenges,” said Chavez. “Size doesn’t really matter. As cheesy as that is to say. You’re more than what your body is.”
“Even though they’re doing physical activity, they’re training their mind to keep pushing through difficult situations,” said Reed. “Whether its physical, it’s mental, or emotional.” Reed says about 20% of young people who attend camps like this one nationwide choose careers in public safety. But the camp isn’t all about recruitment.
“[This is] to expose them to new things, to have fun, to learn something, and make new friends. If the outcome is service to others, we’ve succeeded. If they end up being nurses, doctors, engineers, astronauts, that’s all fine. Just so they’re open to learning new things,” said Butler.