I'm a female firefighter who had to work twice as hard for the same opportunities given more readily to men

 Throughout my life, I never viewed my gender as an obstacle. Gender roles were never a topic of discussion in my household, and my older brother and I did everything together regardless of whether it was considered masculine or feminine. We both pursued karate at young ages and eventually earned black belts, competed internationally, and won medals. High school brought us both to the wrestling team, despite the male-dominated nature of both sports. Despite often being one of the only girls around, I always felt at ease and like one of the boys.

When I became a firefighter, it was because I had just moved and didn't know many people. At first, I felt welcomed, but at times I also felt like I had to prove myself more than my male colleagues. Firefighting is a physically demanding job, and although I prioritize my physical fitness, I am a smaller person standing just five feet tall. I eventually earned the trust and respect of my coworkers, but initially, I exerted extra effort to obtain the same opportunities that were readily available to men.

In reality, firefighters, whether paid or volunteer, must undergo the same training to do their job effectively. We to fires, accidents, medical emergencies, rescues, and investigations. As a firefighter, I often encounter distressing circumstances, from cardiac arrests to people losing their homes or vehicles. However, the calls that resonate with me most are those where we were able to make a positive impact and save someone's life or property. 

I rose through the ranks and earned the position of deputy fire chief. As the deputy, I'm in charge of recruiting and member orientation, oversee equipment and maintenance, and respond to emergency calls and attend meetings. The role is the same as a paid deputy fire chief, with the only difference being that I do not have set office hours and work mostly in my free time.

My colleagues and I collaborate to create and update policies and procedures. Recently, we rewrote the onboarding process and developed new protocols to ensure we have the best team, even though our department is volunteer-based. The position of deputy fire chief is one of seven elected leadership roles, and elections are held annually, with the active firefighters choosing who they want.

It's not surprising that I'm the only woman in the room as only 4% of deputy fire chiefs are women, but I'm not treated any differently and function seamlessly as part of the team. Although firefighting requires hard work and long hours, the sense of camaraderie and making a difference in the community makes it all worthwhile.

As a veteran of nine years, I feel incredibly connected to my community and have made lifelong friends, including my husband who is also a volunteer firefighter. He has been a volunteer for 23 years and has a full-time paid position as a firefighter. The fire service is more than just a job or a hobby; it's a second family. 

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