Pensacola Fire Dept. has female firefighters for first time in 16 years

Pensacola Fire Dept. has female firefighters for first time in 16 years

Female firefighters are not unheard of, but they're not very common either.

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that on seven percent of all the firefighters in the country are women.

Rachael Finney just finished her first 24-hour shift as a firefighter at Station 1. She said it wasn't until three years ago she found out the career was possible.

"The second that I found out females could be firefighters it was on," she said.

Stephanie Spaar is just starting her fourth shift on the job.

"I knew that I had it in me and it was a lot tougher than I thought, but I finally sat down and I thought, 'I'm the only person that's going to hold me back from doing this job,' so I just decided to just go for it," she said.

These are the first females to be hired as firefighters in the city of Pensacola in 16 years. A department spokesperson said it's because women just haven't been applying.

"This is what people think is a man's job," Finney said.

But Spaar said some situations on the job call for the strength of a woman.

"There's also that aspect, you need someone motherly," she said.

Finney said there have been some trying times just in the training.

"I'm pretty small compared to the guys, so the physical aspect of it was definitely a struggle coming through academy, but it's nothing that they couldn't help us get through," Finney said.

Both Spaar and Finney are unsure why more women don't sign up for the job.

"Women as a whole are strong, so maybe there just wasn't enough publicity or going out to the public and say 'Hey, we need more females.' You can do this job just as well as them," Spaar said.

They also say they wouldn't have made it this far without each other.

Channel 3 News checked with other fire departments in the area to find out how many of their career paid firefighters are women.

There are four in Okaloosa County, one in Santa Rosa County, and three in Escambia County.

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