GREENFIELD, N.Y. (WRGB) - In a job field dominated by men, two local female firefighters are encouraging more women to sign up and perhaps find a passion they didn’t know they had.
Firefighters Jill Chouinard and Stephanie Burwell of the Greenfield Fire District are 2 of 1.6 million firefighters in the United States and part of the only seven percent that are women. That’s according to the National Fire Protection Association (2018).
Chouinard, who joined as a volunteer firefighter at the age of 50, says she’s often reminded of how few female firefighters there are when she removes her helmet at a scene.
“I’ve actually had a ‘Wow! A woman firefighter! You don’t see many of those!’ ‘No? Want to join?’” she says with a laugh.
Despite being in a company of all men, Chouinard says she has always felt accepted. The Greenfield Fire District is comprised of four companies. Each company has one woman. Chouinard says what she enjoys the most is giving back to her community.
“To go to a structure fire and help that person or family on the worst day of their life.” She says. “We’re running in as they’re running out.”
Stephanie Burwell has been with her company for 13 years. She says when she first joined it was to be in EMS. But along the way she found a passion for firefighting and never looked back – and had zero intimidation in a crew of all men.
“That didn’t stop me. That didn’t stop any of the guys from accepting me and being right beside them and doing everything they do.” Burwell says. “You’re starting to see a lot more females. It’s a very family-friendly environment.”
Burwell specifically mentions Tuesday night training sessions which she enjoys that also offer time for the families of firefighters to get together and hang out. They welcome anyone who is interested in joining to stop by. Chouinard says there is a job for anyone – even if you don’t want to be on the front lines. All positions are equally important.
“You don’t have to be an interior firefighter like some of us have selected to do (going into buildings, etc. ).” She says. “There’s exterior jobs. There’s auxiliary. There’s fire police. You might find a passion you don’t know you had.”
April is a big recruitment month for fire districts throughout New York State. This applies to both men and women. To find out more and what training is required: www.recruitny.org