In an effort to add more diversity to Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, the fire department is launching a new training camp.
The aim is to introduce more women and gender-diverse communities to the service in a safe and inclusive atmosphere, and inspire them to join.
For nearly five years, Daisy VanRavenswaay has been battling fires as only one of eight female firefighters in Edmonton. It’s a tiny number compared to the roughly 1,250 male firefighters currently serving.
“In North America, we have about four per cent of representation from women in the fire service, so we have a pretty big gender gap there and we’re looking to improve that gap,” VanRavenswaay said.
To get there, for the first time, EFRS is launching Camp Inspire, a three-day introductory firefighter training initiative designed to pique the interest of women, people of colour and those in the LGBTQ2IA+ community.
“It’s basically just to give them that opportunity to feel what it’s like in a minority setting, to ask questions to other firefighters who identify as women and not be scrutinized by other people and just kind of give them that safe inclusion feeling, ” VanRavenswaay said.
Angelika Matson the vice-chair of Women’s Initiative Edmonton, a women’s equality group, said having more female representation in various fields of employment is very important.
“Doing specific target outreach to women and underrepresented groups, I think, is really important, and setting up events where they can try it out and ask questions in a safe space,” Matson said.
She said these types of recruitment options are key to inspiring more women to enter male-dominated workforces.
“Women may not apply just because of social expectations that say women are not strong enough, or they are worried they may not fit in, or they’d feel like they would be more scrutinized or face discrimination,” VanRavenswaay said.
That is an issue both Matson and VanRavenswaay would like to see changed.
“Women need to see themselves in these underrepresented roles so little girls can see the firefighter visiting the classroom,” Matson said.
“I think many women have the mental fortitude and physical strength to do this job,” VanRavenswaay said.
Camp Inspire applications are open until May 25. The first camp runs from June 18 to June 20.
Applicants must be 18 years old and not currently on the EFRS’ hiring eligibility list.
Those interested in becoming a firefighter after the camp can then officially join the recruitment process.