January 31, 2018
Nicholas Handy Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Five Franklin Pierce University students responded out of the on-campus fire station on Jan. 22 for a motor vehicle accident.
While responding to accidents and other mutual aid calls throughout the town and region is nothing new for the students, the make-up of the group was quite unique – all five students on the call were female.
“It’s kind of funny because it’s not something we really think about,” said Jessie Janas, a sophomore from Huntington, New York. “It didn’t even occur to us at the time [that we were a 100-percent female crew]. It’s just a natural response for us.”
Janas was joined on the 22nd by fellow FPU students Carissa Gordon, Kiera Duggan, Hannah Trovitch, and Hines, who make up five of the 13 student firefighters on campus, according to station captain and Rindge firefighter Casey Burrage.
Overall, Burrage said there are eight females on the crew, five of which are freshmen.
“We are getting more and more women joining every year to the point that they now outnumber the men,” said Burrage. “I was pretty excited when I saw we had a 100-percent female crew. It completely changes the gender stereotype.”
Deborah Pendergast, Director of the NH Division of Fire Standards and Training & Emergency Medical Services, said she was happy to hear of the all female crew, and admitted that she had never heard of that happening before.
“I would definitely say there has been a very recent increase,” said Pendergast, who said there are female firefighters on average in New England than other parts of the country. “There has been an uptick over the past two or three years.”
About 4.5-percent of firefighters on career departments in the state are female, according to Pendergast. The number rises to six- or seven-percent in departments staffed mostly or all with volunteers, although Pendergast admits the number is harder to pin down due to the influx in volunteer members.
Pendergast, who has spent that past 20-plus years in the firefighting profession, said that as the years have gone on there has been a shift in society where women can be more than housewives.
“When I came out of high school, women were becoming teachers, nurses, and stay-at-home mothers,” said Pendergast, who is in her mid-50s. “As recent as five years ago, if I showed up to a scene, people would ask if I was an EMT or a dispatcher.”
Trovitch, a freshman from Billerica, Massachusetts, said she has never really noticed a divide between the men and women in Rindge.
“We are all equal, we don’t differentiate,” said Trovitch. “I wasn’t raised on those ideals.”
Rindge Fire Chief Rick Donovan said that the town took over the operations of the university station around 2007, and currently houses one of their fire engines in the university’s fire station. Donovan said all university students are full members of the Rindge Fire Department and receive training just like any other volunteer member would.
Donovan said the department has a history of promoting females within the department, and that females currently make up one-quarter of his core department.
“I think it’s good to have a diverse department,” said Donovan, who said some of his females are on the fire side and others are on the EMS side. “[Females] can do the job just as good as men.”
The five-woman crew from FPU all have some degree of interest in carrying their current passion for firefighting, whether that be as a volunteer or more of a career. Another important factor, at least for some, is to be a role model for younger girls, something that could bring even more women into firefighting in the future.
“We’ve seen younger kids look up to us from a lot of things we’ve done on campus,” said Duggan, a freshman from Billerica, Massachusetts. “Kids want to take pictures with us, which is great.”
Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or email@example.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.
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