Becoming a firefighter used to be regarded as a male-only profession, but times have changed. As society continually progresses, more and more organizations are embracing gender equity in the workplace. And the Pasadena Fire Department is proud to announce that they are one of its proponents.
The team just made history when an all-woman firefighting crew—composed of Captain Tricia Rodriguez, Engineer Christina Terrazas, Firefighter-Paramedic Nicole Olsen, and Firefighter Tawnie Johnson—rode together on Engine 34. This is the first time it has happened in the department’s 133-year history, according to a report by CBS Los Angeles. Firefighting is a male-dominated field in the United States, so this event is quite monumental.
To celebrate, the city of Pasadena shared a photo of some members of the crew on their Facebook page.
“FIRST all-female crew in [the] history of Pasadena Fire Department riding together on Engine 34,” they wrote.
Many Facebook users praised the crew and the department for the progressive move.
All fire departments are required to have a captain, an engineer, and two firefighters during every shift. It just so happened that the four women were all on overtime for a single 24-hour shift, and they filled the roster that Tuesday night. While it’s not a permanent staffing arrangement, the move was still a step in the right direction.
“We actually have [women who] have been promoted within the department enough to fill the seats so that we could put a complement of all-[women] firefighters on an engine company,” Pasadena Fire Engineer Christina Terrazas said in an interview with CBS.
She has been part of the team for 19 years now, and this is the first time she’s ever been part of an all-woman crew.
“To have all women there, there was a lot of pride and there was a lot of fulfillment,” Terrazas said. “It felt like it should’ve happened a long time ago.”
The men at the department get to enjoy working alongside each other every day, and for Terrazas, it was just a great experience to enjoy the same with her fellow female firefighters.
“The guys get to experience that every day,” she said. “And as much as we enjoy working with them and they love working with us, it’s really nice to enjoy this experience today.”
Currently, the fire department has a staff of 150 firefighters, eight of which are women. That means the PFD is composed of five percent women. While this is still a meager number, it’s a little above the national average of four percent.
“I have a year left on the job, and I’m like, ‘Before I leave I’m gonna make sure I have an all-[woman] crew,’ and it just happened today,” Pasadena Fire Captain Tricia Rodriguez said.
When she first joined the force in 1994, she was one of three women in the department. She has definitely seen progress during her time working at the fire station.
“The message to anyone is, if you have a dream or a vision, you can achieve it,” Rodriguez said. “This is something we have looked forward to growing up and we put a lot of effort into it. We trained, and we studied and we took the same test everybody else did and we didn’t give up.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 1,115,000 career firefighters in 2018, and only 8% were women. Out of the 370,000 career firefighters in the United States, only 4% were women. There were 745 volunteer firefighters in 2018, and women accounted for 11% of them.
The state of California is aware of the gender disparity in the firefighting profession. Thus, the Los Angeles Fire Department holds a fire camp for young girls. The department then uses this camp as an opportunity to recruit students in the future. The Pasadena Fire Department plans to emulate the practice by doing a similar program later this year.
Now that’s what you call girl power. It’s a great source of inspiration for young girls who are dreaming of becoming a firefighter themselves.
See video below to learn more about this crew and kudos to all our women firefighters!