Empowering female firefighters in Alburgh

Published: Jul. 24, 2022 at 7:51 PM EDT
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ALBURGH, Vt. (WCAX) - Recruiting emergency and first responder personnel is a challenge in Vermont and Grand Isle County is empowering women to join the frontlines.

Forcible entry, search and rescue, and ladder throwing were just some of the many firefighter basics a dozen females aged 14 through 21 learned in Alburgh Sunday.

“It was very interesting growing up watching the trucks go by and wondering where are they going and who are they going to help? It had the impact on me of, I want to help,” said Meadow Waite of Hinesburg.

Frontline Females Firefighting Camp is gathering girls and women all throughout the state for a two-day camp as part of a first responder recruiting initiative in Grand Isle County.

“Everybody typically goes off the island to work into bigger towns and cities. And so having people around and getting them recruited is really hard,” said camp organizer and firefighter Gabrielle Viens.

Viens says departments in the area tend to gear hiring strategies toward men, overlooking a large pool of candidates.

“We’re trying to curate a training area for just girls. So they know there’s no competition. There’s no guys trying to outshow them. It’s just all them,” said Viens.

The camp provides thorough training and can even go toward certification requirements if they choose to become certified firefighters.

The women spent a hot Sunday moving ladders and learning rescue techniques. They even put on full gear and air packs and played dodgeball to simulate what it’s like to move with heavy gear in a hot, active situation.

“Getting a feel of how it actually is moving around with it and moving quickly and moving in ways you wouldn’t really move,” said Serenity Kruger of Milton.

The program is free for campers. It’s paid for by Grand Isle Mutual Aid which represents different first responding agencies all throughout the county. There are also donations from different fire departments throughout the state.

“It really means a lot it shows all the support. It’s really a male-dominated field. So seeing all of that support, knowing that as long as they’re trained and have the heart for it, they will go in with anybody,” said Viens.

Campers say it’s empowering to learn and hone skills that could save lives.

“Telling girls that you can do what a guy can do kind of thing and letting them know that just because they’re a certain size and height -- they can do it as well,” said Kruger.

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