SPECIAL TO THE WESTERN STAR
For the women and girls of Deer Lake Fire and Rescue, there are no gender barriers when it comes to serving their community.
There are currently three women among the ranks of the fire department and when Deer Lake Fire Rescue started its Junior Firefighter Program in 2018, four of the seven participants were young girls.
Here’s why some of them wanted to join and their thoughts of their experiences so far:
Prior to joining, Piccott had worked alongside the members of Deer Lake Fire Rescue during many calls in her career in as a paramedic.
She had been a member previously but took a leave of absence for family commitments and came back to the department as soon as the opportunity came up. She said she was welcomed back with open arms.
"It’s never been about being a girl.” - Lori Piccott
“I never for a second felt intimidated in putting in an application,” she said. “In the first responder field, it’s about having each other’s back and protecting each other in terrible circumstances.
You train together and go to calls together and you look out for each other. It’s never been about being a girl.”
Fayth Schroeder is new to the fire department and her husband, Brady Schroeder, a lieutenant with the department, is its training officer.
She’s been working as a registered nurse for a little more than 18 months and has been feeling a tug toward being a first-response volunteer.
“In my career, I get to provide direct care every day, but there’s something different about providing immediate aid to people in their very moment of crisis,” she said. “For me, joining (Deer Lake Fire Rescue) was about having the opportunity to respond at that exact moment and provide the immediate aid necessary.”
McKay worked as an emergency dispatcher in Fort McMurray, AB, for the last five years.
“It was really exciting being the first link in the emergency response chain,” she said. “You hear peoples' cries for help on their worst days and work hand in hand with the fire department lining up resources for them to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
The longer she spent working as a dispatcher, the more she wanted to move into the first responder field. After working through the 2016 Horse River wildfire in Fort McMurray, she knew she wanted to be a firefighter.
“They were heroes in my eyes, so selfless, working themselves to the bone protecting everything around them while everyone else was being evacuated.”
When she moved to Deer Lake and saw the department was recruiting, she thought this might be her opportunity.
“I went and got an application and let it sit on my table for weeks before handing it in. I was intimidated by the stigma that firefighting is a ‘man’s job.’ I didn’t know if I’d fit in or if I’d be treated as an equal or even what the people in the community would think of a female firefighter.”
Hannah Adams is a member of the Junior Firefighter Program. Her dad, Greg Adams, has been in the department for the past decade and is the Junior Firefighter Program coordinator.
She joined last year when the program started and jumped at the chance to take part again this year.
Being a girl wasn’t something to hold her back. She knew there would be some challenges to put herself though, like carrying a 50-pack or learning how to stop an open sprinkler using wooden chocks.
Now that she knows she can do those things and more, she’s gaining more and more confidence with every training session.
“Being in the (Junior Firefighter Program) is just about being yourself,” she said. “I went into the department shy and quiet and then I slowly came out of my shell. That’s what it’s about. Be yourself, have fun, listen when instructed, and I really enjoyed it.”
Lane is new to the first responder field and has taken an interest through the Junior Firefighter Program.
Her boyfriend is in the program and his father is a firefighter. She said his excitement for the program was contagious. After going on a tour of the fire hall, she decided she wanted to be a part of it, too.
“I didn’t feel intimidated by joining, even though there were mostly all guys in the program,” she said. “I heard it was a good experience and I thought it would be a fun experience. I like that in the program that fact that I am a girl doesn’t make a difference. It’s a very comfortable and including program.”
She hasn’t turned back from any of the training so far and, although it’s still early into the program, she’s already had some hands-on training.
(Lieut. Andrew Rogers is the public relations officer for Deer Lake Fire Rescue)