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  1. #1
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    Question girl seeking advice

    Ok, for the past two years i've been planning on joining the volunteer fire dept. here in town when I turn 16, which will be in 2 months. I grew up in a firefighting family and I want to carry on the tradition. My older brother who is 18, and also on the fire dept. tells me that my frame and muscle mass is way to small to carry all the equipment. Should I be worried about the training when I join? Also all the advice you can give me would be great. Thanks all!


  2. #2
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    Join when you can, do what you can and work on what you can't. There is ALOT of hard work and heavy equipment to work with so you WILL need to work on your strength in order to use all the tools available to you. Start now and get as much training as you can and in time you will get where you need to be.

  3. #3
    Cpt. Common Sents nbfcfireman's Avatar
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    do what you can! I have seen some incredible tiny girls do and lift things that I could not believe. One girl from my area was so small they had to have custom gear made for her. you will just have to find your limits, and them push them

  4. #4
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    In my volunteer dept. we have a woman who, when she joined, weighed 90#.
    She wanted to go through all the training. She stuck with it. When it came to the 3 day mini-academy practical training, she did great! I am talking about 3 days of intense training, ladders, salvage and overhaul, firestreams, search and rescue, fire suppression, ventilation, all aspects of fireground operations with an airpack on. Not one of the light weight composite packs, an older Scott with a solid aluminum cylinder!

    If she can do it, so can you!
    Just go for it!
    Career/Volunteer, We are all professionals!

  5. #5
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    Cool

    Hey Smalls!
    I'm also a female that needed advice on how to get stronger for this job. I'm 5'6"/155# and I've been pretty active for the past 28 yrs (got on when i was 24). I'm on a busy department just north of Chicago. I've met some other women that are smaller than me that can kick butt! Since we as women are smaller than the guys, and lack the upper body strength they have, that is a key area to work on. Also remember that TECHNIQUE plays a big part in what you do. There are specific programs that are geared for us (women), so look into that. There's a program developed by Michael Stefano (a 20-year veteran of FDNY), author of The Firefighter's Workout Book, and creator of the Firefighter's Workout video. Check into that.
    Go for the job, there's nothing better than this! Let me know if you want more info, i'd be more than happy to assist you.
    Stay safe!

  6. #6
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    I could agree with WhyteKloud more regarding the point she made about technique.

    Yes there is a lot of heavy lifting required in the fire service so do work on your strength as much as possible and know your limits to avoid putting yourself or anyone else in a dangerous situation.

    But having said that, I'm not a big guy (6', 175) but I have very little body fat, am in good shape, and I work smart. Don't use brute force with a tool built for leverage, utilize webbing, proper posture, good balance etc., etc. I've seen first hand a girl on Ladder 5, I believe, out of Worcester, MA who was an absolute animal pulling ceilings and opening walls because she knew how to use a Halligan more effective than possibly anyone I've ever seen. She was certainly a valuable asset to the fire scene. Knowing your own limits is key; don't let someone else tell you what your limits are, know them yourself and you'll be a great firefighter.

    Stay safe!

  7. #7
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    You can do anything you want to do as long as your heart is totally into it.. Like all the others said.. Work on your weakness, don't dwell on them, no your limitations and you will be fine... Some of the best firefighters I worked along side are women.. and they are petite and small to boot... All of us have limitations even the biggest strongest brute men... stick with it and stay safe...

  8. #8
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    Default Reality check

    Quote Originally Posted by LouisianaMedic
    You can do anything you want to do as long as your heart is totally into it.. ...
    While I agree that this is a good attitude to have, it is not terribly realistic. If you are not built / made to do certain things....then sometimes you need to realize that you are not well suited for it, and move on to something more tailored to your abilities. No matter how much my heart is in to it, I'll never play in the N.B.A. !

    People need to realize that just because you WANT to do something doesn't mean you SHOULD do something. You should find what you are truly best at and capitalize on your natural ability to do so.

  9. #9
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    Default That sounds like a good idea

    a woman firefighter is fine. alot of the best firemen have been women women can do some things just as well as anyone.

  10. #10
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    Hey smalltowngirl...do your best, follow your heart, and keep the tradition alive!

    That being said, let me share something with you about the differences between males and females. In terms of strength, at a relative intensity, women can do more reps than a male can. That's because of the difference in hormones. This comes from strength and conditioning research. So, it's possible for you to start training and become very strong. Check out firejock.com or fireupyourbody.com for some references.

    If you are in need of strength training, start with the basic exercises like squats, overhead presses, pushups, rows, chinups, lunges, and step ups. And, if strength is what you need, go heavy and hard! Keep your reps low (4-8) and your sets per exercise moderate (3-5). This will allow you to get stronger without putting on too much muscle mass. And, please don't worry about turning into a beast. It's likely that as a female, you do not produce enough testosterone to do so.

    Also, once you join the department and begin using the tools and training, you will develop usable strength. This happens with every firefighter who joins the service. After some time, just wearing your gear will cause your body to develop some strength and tolerance for the gear itself. The same will hold true for using the tools. It will become more natural over time, but doing some strength work on your own will facilitate those changes quicker.

    Hope this helps! Good luck!
    Yours in health & safety,
    Rich Meyer, Strength Coach
    Author of FAST Responders: The Ultimate Guide to Firefighter Conditioning
    www.functionalfirefitness.com
    *Sign up for FREE training journal

  11. #11
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    I wanted to join when I was 16 but my mom wouldn't sign for me so I waited until I was 18 and never told anyone and now my mom's so proud of me and tells everyone. Apparently she wanted to be a volunteer ff, her dad was, but she never became one.

    I found out last night if I fail the Level 1, then I am out of the fire department.

    I think it's great that you want to get involved, and if you want to do something, go for it and don't let anyone tell you differently. I have tried to please everyone else too much and later this year I hope to go to paramedic school because that's something I WANT to do despite what everyone else has told me.

    I have seen MANY small women (and men) who are volunteer firefighters, career firefighters and paramedics.

    There will definitely be something that YOU can do for the fire department.
    2005 Pontiac Wave 5 Hatch
    Pontiac... built for drivers

  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber pvfire424's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unionffp
    While I agree that this is a good attitude to have, it is not terribly realistic. If you are not built / made to do certain things....then sometimes you need to realize that you are not well suited for it, and move on to something more tailored to your abilities. No matter how much my heart is in to it, I'll never play in the N.B.A. !
    People need to realize that just because you WANT to do something doesn't mean you SHOULD do something. You should find what you are truly best at and capitalize on your natural ability to do so.

    With that attitude you certainly wont. Actually with the Right attitude, anything can be reality.

    Smalltown, as long as you have your mind & your heart in the right frame, do everything you can to acheive your goal.
    I.A.C.O.J. "The Cork"

  13. #13
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    Default Rock on

    Listen--I went through the academy with a girl with the same dillema as you have. Do not get discouraged. You will have to beef up a little bit. It is a tough job and requires strenth and agility, mentally and physically. If you bring yourself to achieve the mental requirement, the physical is only a thing. There will be a million things you will be better at than the big oaf guys you will be running with and they will have their dominating strengths. You will rock in confined space and you will be the number one request for a partner in your mayday classes. My little sister is also on the fire department with me. Because you are a girl, does not matter. You just have to work on your weaknesses. Age is also not a factor(my sister is 15 and I am 17).
    Rock on

  14. #14
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    I became interested in the fire department at about the same age as you I was 16 and 5' 4" and I think I weighed in around 105 lbs. I was wirey and in shape I did gymnastics and rode horses all day. But people had real concerns about my ability. The key that I think made the difference and still does today is that I am stubborn and won't quit.
    Of course the weight and muscle will develop later if you work at it, think about all the skinny 16 year old guys who fill out later.
    some other things that often people don't consider is that you don't always need brute strength to finish every job.
    Some places where skinny is good and you will be the first person to get the job:
    Getting boosted in the window to open the door for the person fallen unable to get to the door
    Holding C-spine on victims trapped in squished cars
    Attic spaces and crawl spaces
    When I took confined space my team had the fastest time to date because I fit so well in the pipes, and yes I pulled life size victims.
    Someone else said it earlier but it is very true, for smaller people it's all about the way you do it finesee. If you have trouble with larger items like ladders ask other women in the dept. or on this web site or Women in the Fire Service. there are some tricks to it.
    Good Luck

  15. #15
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    Smile Thanks!!

    Thanks for all your tips and advice. The day i turned 16 I joined and I caught hell from alot of people but I didn't care. I realized that even some of the boys were having trouble with the same stuff as me. My brother is now very much supportive and helps me on my training along with my great new friends I've made on the department. All is going good and I train all the time now. Thanks yall!!

  16. #16
    Forum Member Chauffeur6's Avatar
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    Good for you smalltown, don't lose that positive attitude even when the going gets tough (and it will).

    Incidentally, there are plenty of essential tasks that need to get done both on and off the fireground aside from the heavy lifting and back breaking grunt work, especially in a volunteer dept. Not everyone can perform every task as well as the next person, nor should they have to. We have a member of our dept that is physically impaired, but he is one of our most dedicated members. He's an enormous asset to the company in his position as Trustee, and on the fireground he is an Accountability Officer, which is an often overlooked yet crucial task. Other members who aren't "cut out" for the heavy work like interior firefighting become drivers, aerial operators, public information/community relations personnel, fire prevention committee members, fire police, EMS personnel, etc etc etc. There are literally dozens of jobs that need to be filled by dedicated people. There is no shame at all in sometimes realizing that your physical stature might limit the tasks you can realistically do.

  17. #17
    Forum Member scfire86's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smalltowngirl
    Ok, for the past two years i've been planning on joining the volunteer fire dept. here in town when I turn 16, which will be in 2 months. I grew up in a firefighting family and I want to carry on the tradition. My older brother who is 18, and also on the fire dept. tells me that my frame and muscle mass is way to small to carry all the equipment. Should I be worried about the training when I join? Also all the advice you can give me would be great. Thanks all!
    Finish high school. Then worry about joining the FD and carrying on the family tradition.
    Politics is like driving. To go forward select "D", to go backward select "R."

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Juniorfiremen62
    a woman firefighter is fine. alot of the best firemen have been women women can do some things just as well as anyone.
    Alot of the best firemen have been women? Can you expand on that a little more, maybe name some names?

  19. #19
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    Thumbs up Message to Future Firefighters

    It's a good idea to start thinking about your future at 16, but most importantly, stay in school and get an education. That includes PHSICALLY preparing for a job or volunteer position in the fire service.

    But don't underestimate the level of effort, strength, and endurance required to suit up with 50 pounds of gear and be and battle a fire. Being prepared, both mentally and physically, is a necessity for your own safety, as well as the safety of everbody on the fire ground.

    Future Olympic athletes start preparing in grade school. If we look at firefighting as an extreme athletic event, you can see why establishing a foundation for future fitness is important. The key is too stay very basic, and as a young person you should be concerned with developing necessary the many elements of fitnes - strength, endurance, speed, agility, and flexibility.

    Don't panic. There's a lot of overlap with each element, and many can be trained without formal exercise. For example, sprinting will develop strength, speed, and endurance. Getting involved in sports like soccer, basketball, and tennis will allow a young person to play while they lay that foundation for the future.

    But don't completely ignore the inside of the gym. Young people can build upper body, lower body, and core strength, essential for future firefighters. Simple, but perfectly executed, movements like push ups and lunges work best. Parents should consider a few sessions with a local trainer who specializes in youth fitness to help get things started.

    While this article does not contain any technical recommendations, as preparing for one of the toughest jobs on earth cannot be summed up so quickly, my overall advice is to do your research, seek out a professional, but absolutely DO start early.

    Good Luck,
    Mike Stefano
    www.firefightersworkout.com

  20. #20
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    I dunno how much help this is, but I am also a really small girl..... My advise is to stay active and healthy, exercising, a good attitude, etc will help you improve your strength and ability. On the other hand, there have been a few times when I have just said, "I am not physically able to do that" (there is no sense throwing out your back carrying a Pos. pres. fan when there are a couple of guys standing there) Its nothing to be ashamed of. Ask for help if you can't lift something, move something, etc. Your small size can be an advantage to you too! I am the only one in my Dept (a small town volunteer dept) that can crawl thru small places without removing my SCBA tank.

    Good Luck and have fun firefightin'!

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