Women ex­plore fire­fight­ing dream

Aims Com­mu­nity Col­lege pro­gram tries to open up a pre­dom­i­nately male ca­reer

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By James Red­mond

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.

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