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Weekend Camp Provides Firefighter Training For Young Women

SHERWOOD, OR -- Professional female firefighters from all over Oregon, including Bend Fire & Rescue, spent their weekend in Sherwood training young women interested in fire service. 

From deflating tires at a crash scene and using the jaws of life, to how to carry a ladder and navigate halls filled with smoke, about three dozen young women learned firefighting skills at the three-day camp hosted by Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. Campers are between the ages of 16 and 22.

TVF&R Lt. Emily Van Meter says they also learn about their own abilities, "These are all things that you typically on-scene, you see men doing - and big, strong men. I mean, historically, male firefighters, they’re big, they’re strong. They can’t imagine seeing themselves in that position, and we hand them the tools and we show them how to use it. And they’re like, ‘oh. It’s not as tough as it seems’." She adds, "This is not something that’s handed to women. We aren’t handed the fire truck, we’re handed the Barbie doll when we’re kids."

She believes it’s important fire departments reflect their community, "When we show up on a scene, women who are patients - that they have women who look like them to help them and to understand their needs." But most agencies have very few women "on the line" - working scenes and battling fires. At TVF&R, outside Portland, just barely over 7% are female. 

For trainers and campers, though, it’s not just about recruitment, "Ultimately, our goal is just to empower young women, to show them they can do anything they put their minds to," Lt. Van Meter tells KBND News, "At the end of the day, if they leave here more confident than when they walked in, then we have a win."

Trainers came to TVF&R’s Sherwood facility from all over the west, including Albany, Bend and Hood River, to work with about three-dozen campers. This is the fourth year for this location. It's in partnership with Portland Fire, who has hosted the Metro Fire Camp for women for 14 years. 

Photos: (top) TVF&R's Lt. Van Meter looks on as a camper breaks out a window during crash scene training; (middle) Agencies from Oregon, Washington and California took part in the weekend training in Sherwood, attracting campers from all over the state; (bottom) A Bend Fire & Rescue member helps campers climb to the top of a ladder truck.

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