Calgary Fire Department celebrates first-ever all-female crew

Calgary fire department is celebrating 30 years since first female firefighter was added to city brigade

Left to right: Deb (Senior Nozzle), Joanne (the Captain), Anna (the Driver) and Michelle (the Hydrant). COURTESY CALGARY FIRE DEPARTMENT

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.

“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
About Darren Krause 254 Articles
Journalist, husband, father, golfer, writer, painter, video gamer, gardener, amateur botanist, dreamer, realist... never in that order.

9 Comments

  1. That’s nice but are they strong enough to rescue a very heavy individual? My brother in law died because female ambulance crew could not move him into ambulance. They had to call in a second crew but it was too late by then. Just something to think about.

    • Yes, they are able to rescue a heavy individual. They would not have advanced to qualified firefighter if they cannot pass all the tests their male equivalents do. Our daughter is a volunteer fire fighter and we know the stringent tests she has passed.

      • Actually Connie- I have a lot of friends who are firefighters. They have lowered the physical requirements (yes they all have the same requirements nonetheless the requirements are very easy for everyone resulting in weaker people being hired) so a lot of the people on their job are not as strong as people who got on in the past. I have no idea if this is the case for these 4 however just because they got on doesn’t mean they are strong. It only means they were able to pass a very easy test. Go down to your local fire station and ask any number of the firefighters if they feel this is true.

    • They’re all trained to the same fitness standards. I’m sorry for your loss, but just because the EMS crew didn’t get your family member into the ambulance, doesn’t mean they would have survived.

  2. Why are all the women in the story named by first names only, and the only manin the story is named by first and last name? Partonizing, poor journalism, or both?

    • Hi Weronika –

      No. Only the first names were provided by the Calgary Fire Department. Thanks!

      – Darren Krause – Editor

  3. Cool but why are the women that the story is about named by first name only, and the only man mentioned in the story is named by first and last name? Partonizing, poor journalism, or both?

  4. Oh Brad you couldn’t be more wrong. The physical standards have definitely not been lowered or made easier. If anything- it’s harder as there’s a polygraph to pass , a CPAT physical text which has the same requirements for both men and females. Plus a VO2 treadmill cardio fitness test that again has the same requirements for both sexes. I think perhaps you Brad might have applied and failed possibly? A bit jaded much???

    • So Jim, the fact that dozens of other fire departments have had to lower their standards, and Brad’s second hand knowledge of this being done in Calgary, make him a washout because he pointed this out?

      You did nothing to counter his points. You simply reiterated most of them. Yes, the standards were lowered for everybody, but in the name of DIVERSITY! so it’s okay.

      Oh, and what the heck does a polygraph have to do with anything? Are you really this daft?

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