Local women take firefighter training course

BEDFORD – While the number of women in the fire service is increasing females still make up less than 10 percent of the United States fire service.

The new NFPA report provides an overview of 29,705 local and municipal fire departments in the country; and estimates that in 2018, only 93,700, or eight percent, of the 1,115,000 firefighters in the United States were female. More specifically, 15,200 or four percent of career firefighters and 78,500 volunteer firefighters or 11 percent were women.

On Saturday morning four women locally took part in the Firefighter II training being held at the Shawswick Township Volunteer Fire Department.

In this male-dominated profession, these women took the training right alongside the men learning how to fight propane fires, execute vehicle extrication, and performed firehose testing skills as part of their training.

The women decided to become firefighters for various reasons, but all were accepted among the volunteer fire services in Lawrence and Orange counties.

The barriers allowing women to become firefighters no longer exist. These women have the support of their family, friends, and most of all their fellow firefighters.

Hannah Moore of Marshall Township Volunteer Fire Department was first interested in firefighting in high school. She took a fire science course at the Hoosier Hills Career Center in Monroe County.

Hannah Moore, firefighter Marshall Township VFD uses hydraulic cutters during extrication training Saturday.

“I took the course when I was in high school. My grandfather was a firefighter for several years retiring in February. We were able to respond to fires together,” said Moore. “I fell in love with the program at Hoosier Hills Career Center which is a two-year course. It did not have Firefighter II and that is why I am here today to complete this course.”

Moore has been a member of the Marshall Township Volunteer Fire Department since October 2020.

Stacy Staidl, a firefighter with Orange County District 1 joined the department because her boyfriend of four years was a firefighter there.

Stacy Staidl prepares to don a Self Contained Breathing Appaartus for propane fire training.

“At first, I felt out of place, but then you start to fit in and you can do whatever they do,” said Staidl.

Staidl has already responded to 14 calls.

“Being in fires is a little scary and dark. You have to keep your hands on the hose so you can find your way out. And it’s important to always stay partner,” she added.

Some of the women joined fire departments as emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

But, many fire department chiefs encourage them to learn how to fight fires.

That was the case for Lisa McCutchan who is a firefighter with Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department.

Lisa McCutchan with Tammy Wright who are firefighters with the Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department

“The local fire chiefs encouraged me to take Firefighter I and Firefighter II which pushed me out of my comfort zone to be a firefighter. But now I really enjoy it,” said McCutchan. “Being in a male dominate profession was an apprehension for me and a little difficult to navigate at first however the guys and girls in this department treated everyone the same and as a family. Lawrence County has some of the greatest fire chiefs and all-around great people.”.

Kayla DeWeese’s father has been a firefighter for 21 years and she was always intrigued about the profession.

Kayla DeWeese carries a ram to prepare for an auto extrication on Saturday

“I always wanted to be able to help people and I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” said DeWeese.

When her father found out that she wanted to be a firefighter it was a proud moment.

“He was probably more excited than I was, DeWeese added. “I think it is remarkable that more women are becoming firefighters, not just in Orange or Lawrence counties but throughout the United States. I am glad women are excelling in a male dominate profession.”

The women will take their tests on Wednesday after completing a 36-hour training course and if they pass they will be certified.