Women explore firefighting dream
Aims Community College program tries to open up a predominately male career
GREELEY» Reese Tilton’s firefighter uncle is her hero.
She’s a junior at Greeley West High School, and she has spent a lot of time thinking about her future. She decided firefighting was something she wanted to consider.
Tuesday afternoon, Reese and nine other high school-age girls from northern Colorado practiced suiting up in the protective gear and breathing apparatuses firefighters use on the job at the Aims Community College’s inaugural Young Women Xplore Academy. A cadre of female firefighters encouraged them, shared stories of their experiences and helped them learn how to use the equipment.
Hosted by Aims’ Public Safety Institute in Windsor, this three-day workshop offers high school girls the chance to learn and train public safety and firefighting skills.
Women aren’t common in the firefighting field, said Loveland Fire Rescue Captain Pat Mialy. The college and firefighting officials hope the program encourages more women to at least explore it. In fact, many women don’t even get that chance.
“Many times the fire service isn’t something that’s put before young women for consideration,” Mialy said.
As a result, the fire service is still predominately male, said Aims Director of Fire Science Randy Souther. The hope with the academy is to encourage them and let them know they’re welcome in the firefighting industry.
Throughout last week’s course, the girls practiced and learned different fire safety skills from female instructors and firefighters. The program included classroom training, as well, and everyone who completed the program will became CPR-certified, Mialy said.
It’s about more than just the firefighting skills and knowhow to her, though. Mialy said she feels important traits such as confidence and assertiveness aren’t encouraged enough in young women. With the fire academy, she hopes she might get a chance to let these young women feel a little more comfortable in their own skin.
“I want to give them a safe environment to explore a fire career, a fire service academy and to speak with women firefighters who are actively in the fire service,” Mialy said. “Our goal as instructors is also to help them build self-esteem, assertiveness and teamwork in a safe environment.”
Participants were trained in ladder operations and rappelling and were given a live fire demo at Aims’ facility. Outside of those daring educational opportunities, the girls learned about fire behavior, search and rescue, nutrition, physical fitness and hose management.
They also learned about emergency air transportation through a demo with a Northern Colorado Med Evac helicopter. The also competed in a team event using their new fire safety training.
Careers in public service have a positive outlook. EMTs and paramedics will be in high demand during the next few years with a 24 percent projected growth in employment between 2014 and 2024.