Fire Headlines Podcast Icon - Culture

Encouraging Women in Fire Service

July 5, 2023

14

A recent article shared in the Daily Dispatch explored a specialized firefighting role in Indiana: the Indianapolis 500 Track Rescue teams, who respond to wrecks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Of the 120 firefighters on the at the IMS Track Rescue team, nine are women. The women interviewed in the article addressed their journey in fire service and the surprised responses they receive when people realize they are part of Track Rescue. To discuss strategies to recruit and encourage more women in the fire service, Chief Jeff Buchanan and Fire Headlines host Inanna Hencke connected with Captain Adrianne Ziyad and Deputy Chief Khalilah Yancey of Women in Fire, an advocacy group for female firefighters.

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Recruitment and retention strategies for encouraging women in the fire service are addressed in the latest episode of Fire Headlines by the Western Fire Chiefs Association.

A recent article shared in the Daily Dispatch explored a specialized firefighting role in Indiana: the Indianapolis 500 Track Rescue teams, who respond to wrecks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Of the 120 firefighters on the at the IMS Track Rescue team, nine are women. The women interviewed in the article addressed their journey in fire service and the surprised responses they receive when people realize they are part of Track Rescue. To discuss strategies to recruit and encourage more women in the fire service, Chief Jeff Buchanan and Fire Headlines host Inanna Hencke connected with Captain Adrianne Ziyad and Deputy Chief Khalilah Yancey of Women in Fire, an advocacy group for female firefighters.

Women in Fire

Adrianne and Khalilah are in leadership roles within the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Service (Women in Fire). This non-profit network provides education, support, mentorship, and advocacy for fire service women.

Both Adrianne and Khalilah are aware of special emergency service assignment opportunities, such as high angle rescue or SWAT teams. Adrianne says, “We don’t have a lot of women who are in our specialty teams, but when we do, we definitely advocate and nurture that and support wherever we can.” Awareness of these opportunities helps women feel empowered to apply when their skills would fit with these specialized roles.

Recruiting Women in the Workforce

Jeff points out a problem in the fire service is not enough staff, saying, “We just want more firefighters, we want more women to join the ranks of the fire service.” He asks for strategies around recruiting women, and Khalilah explains, “People are not gonna come where they’re not wanted.” She and Adrianne cite welcoming workplace environments as a key step in recruiting women to the fire service. They agree that greater visibility for women in fire service roles helps to encourage women to apply for certain positions or careers. Adrianne’s fire department in Georgia holds girls camps and early exploration programs to teach emergency management and fire service skills to teenagers. Khalilah notes the opportunities to learn about the fire service that Women in Fire offers as well, from girls camps to a Women’s Weekend in June 2023 that will hopefully be a regular occurrence in the future.

Outreach with Younger Generations

Khalilah sees a struggle to communicate effectively with Millennials and Generation Z about job skills. She says, “I think the younger generation right now, they kind of lack people skills in a sense because they can do everything at their fingertips with their phone.” Adrianne recalls that U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell presented on communicating with younger generations in the fire service workforce, and how important it is to ensure employees feel comfortable, valued, and welcome.

Women in Fire offers trainings and resources to help women in the workplace. The organization has a monthly radio show, and Women in Fire and the U.S. Fire Administration are collaborating with several other stakeholders on a new document: “Emergency Health and Safety Issues of Female Firefighters.” Additionally, the Women in Fire International Conference will be held in San Diego, CA, on September 11-14, 2024. For more information about Women in Fire, visit their website.

You can email Fire Headlines at [email protected].

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