Firefighting is for Girls
At this camp, teenagers find out what it's like to climb ladders, operate hose lines and rappel down ropes
December 05, 2017
If you want to make it your job to fight fires, you've got to have a fire burning inside you -- and plenty of girls do, says Pike Krpan, founder of Camp Female Firefighters in Training, a program administered by the City of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada Fire Department.
Today, fewer than 4 percent of Canadian firefighters are women and in the United States, it's about 4.6 percent. According to Pike, that's “way too few.” And it's an issue she's personally focused on addressing.
Pupils observe closely as Pike introduces would-be firefighters to the tactics, technology and safe practices of the trade.
During the camp, now in its third year, 16-to-19-year-old campers experienced the real-life duties of a firefighter, such as developing emergency preparedness skills, a healthy, athletic approach to the job and a safety-first mindset.
Pike is ideally suited for her role as advocate for females in the fire service. She gained advanced skills in training and tactics at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC), a weeklong intensive experience that she attended in 2015 on a fully paid scholarship from Honeywell and DuPont.
Honeywell manufactures a full range of personal protective equipment to fit all firefighters, women included, with garments customized according to individual measurements for chest, overarm, shoulder, back, sleeve, waist, hip, crouch rise and pants inseam.
At camp, 16 girls participated in three days of hands-on, physically and mentally demanding, intense training. Participants donned firefighter gear, including the use of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA); operated hose lines; handled and climbed ladders; carried out search and rescue operations; learned fire communications systems and best practices in fire prevention, conducted simulated medical calls; rappelled down a building for a rope rescue; and received instruction in personal health and fitness management.
Pike received advanced training skills on an FDIC scholarship sponsored by Honeywell and DuPont.
Krpan says, “I tell the girls on the first day that we'll ask them to try things that might challenge them, even scare them,” she said. “Of course, we would never ask them to do anything unsafe, but we put them into dark, small places and ask them to find their way out ‚Äî wearing full gear, navigating through smoke-filled mazes, and climbing 90-foot ladders.”
“Women are strong--mentally and physically,” says Pike. “I saw a [17-year-old] young woman pick a 175-pound dummy up from the ground, and drag it 50 feet ‚Äî to the cheers of all her friends.”