Spokane County Fire District 10 has been trying to organize an all-female crew for months. Last week, schedulers pulled it off.
The district, which surrounds Airway Heights on the West Plains, hit a milestone on July 3, staffing a shift with only female firefighters – the first time it has been done in Spokane County, they said. Rachel Rademacher, McKenna Jimno, Kelsey Wardsworth, Amanda Pastian, Shyann Morton, Tiffany Pope and Brittany Wuesthoff made up the crew.
“I just think it’s a super empowering thing,” said Wuesthoff, a volunteer firefighter on the shift that night. She said the reasoning behind the move wasn’t to make a statement, but to give the crew a chance to hang out together. The women are already friends outside work, she said.
Fire District 10 employs 12 women out of about 80 firefighters, District 10 Deputy Chief Orlando Sandoval said. That’s about double the national average. About 7.3 percent of firefighters in the U.S. are women, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
“It’s rare to see this many women in a district,” Wardsworth said.
The shift started at 5 p.m., with the firefighters cooking a hearty dinner of brisket and twice-baked potatoes for themselves. They did chores and watched a movie, “Magic Mike.”
The crew got one call that night, for chest pain, at 4 a.m. When the six arrived on scene, the EMT crew noticed they were all women.
“The EMTs said that it was pretty cool,” Wardsworth said. “We were able to get on scene and handle it like any other shift.”
Sandoval said the shift already is staffed with majority women, and it was up to them to rearrange their schedules to achieve the all-female crew. He said he’s been happy to promote and raise awareness of female firefighters.
“From our standpoint,” Sandoval said, “there’s no difference between them and the men.”
Wardsworth echoed that.
“It’s not really different from having guys on the crew,” she said. “We did the same thing with our daily routine of chores and training.”
There are no set plans for another all-female shift, Wuesthoff said, but it’s something they want to do.
This story was changed on Monday, July 9, 2018 to correct the name of the fire district and its location.