The quartet took a photo themselves the night they served together, because they knew it was a milestone moment in the 134-year history of the Calgary Fire Department.
Indeed it was.
For the first time ever, an all-female crew was posted to a single Calgary fire engine. The team of Joanne (captain), Deb (senior nozzle), Anna (driver) and Michelle (hydrant) worked a shift together earlier this spring, and they wanted to remember it.
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“We took the photo later that night because we realized it was pretty monumental and just wanted to capture the moment. Some of us use social media regularly so it didn’t seem weird to post a few pics. We didn’t realize the impact it would have,” said Deb.
The women had all been assigned to 14 Station, in the southwest Calgary community of Haysboro, for a shift the night before. That night, they were on two separate engines. While it would have been neat to all be together, they didn’t want to manipulate the rotation in order to have the all-female crew, they said.
“On the second night, the driver booked off and I took the opportunity to jump onto 14 engine with the rest of the women. It was this moment of, ‘Wow, an all-female crew! This never happens!’” Anna said.
The crew attended a couple of calls that night – a medical call and a car crash. And people noticed.
“The funniest part was police and medics at the car accident saying, ‘wow, all girls! So awesome!’” Deb said.
For Michelle, the junior member on the crew, being a part of an all-female crew was a particularly proud moment.
“As a junior person, it was fun to be taking direction entirely from female superiors. I have an immense amount of respect for all of those who have gone through this before me, but this was a very unique and inspiring experience,” she said.
Once they’d taken the photo and posted it to social media, it spread, well, like wildfire. It wasn’t something they’d expected. They only thought perhaps family and friends would care. That wasn’t the case. It even attracted the attention of the social media savvy Vancouver fire chief, Darrell Reid.
“It felt great to be part of something that had never happened before. Sharing a significant historic milestone is special. I’m still really proud of it. We did discuss how it took 30 years to go from one lone female firefighter, to an entire female engine crew,” said crew captain, Joanne.
“The foundation was laid by courageous women who came before us. I’ve been inspired by them, and I’m encouraged that the workplace has changed and will continue to.”
Michelle’s hoping the awareness can inspire other women.
“I think it’s wonderful that it has gone viral. Like I said before, this can do a lot in the way of inspiring other women to consider this as a career. This should be a moment that is celebrated. It’s proof that times are changing. This is not about the four of us. This is about all the others it will impact. Being a person of positive impact is important to me,” she said.
May 2019 marks the 30-year anniversary of Calgary hiring its first-ever female firefighter. There’s another recruitment drive starting in June.
- with files from Brodie Thomas