Women recruits all fired up at LAFD event

NORTHRIDGE – Lorraine Moore, biceps straining, lowered her shoulder toward the imaginary fire and pulled with all her might. The thick hose dragged behind her, its 21/2-inch diameter head clenched tight in her firefighter’s glove. Moore raced forward, pulling the 100-foot tube to its full length from the serpentine pile behind her. Then, straining in her Nikes, she began to haul it in, hand over hand. She yanked all 120 pounds into a new pile, not pausing for rest, then did the whole thing over again. “I … don’t … like … desk … jobs,” she panted before recovering her breath. “I like to get out and help people.” Saturday’s exposition, designed to show the rigors of the job and provide interaction with female firefighters, drew several hundred prospective candidates. “Many of the women I work with are the best partners I’ve ever had,” Wade said. “They train hard and want people to realize that they’re not just here because someone placed them there.” And the training was quite clearly difficult, even for the curious bunches who trailed in Saturday morning. They hoisted ladders, donned 60-pound packs and hiked up a steep hill, and lugged 160-pound dummies across the parking lot to simulate rescuing smoke-inhalation victims. Some were left gasping for breath, but most enthusiastically flexed their muscles and went at it. Fourteen years ago, Capt. Tamara Chick was in the latter group. “I found out about the Fire Department at an event just like this,” said Chick, who now coordinates women’s recruitment efforts. “I wanted to be a physical therapist, but I told a friend about this thing and she didn’t want to go alone. When I went, I fell in love with the job.” When she signed on, women didn’t even have their own restrooms at fire stations and they accounted for an even smaller fraction of the department’s personnel. Though she’s watched things change dramatically, she’d like to see even more women join the ranks. Maria Navarro, a 19-year-old from Lancaster, would like to be one of them. She’s spent summers working for the U.S. Forest Service attacking wildfires; now she’d like a job in the city. “There’s only 90 females in the whole department,” she said. “That makes me want to go out and say, `I can do that. I can be part of that small group.’ It’d be pretty neat to be one of those ones who stands out.” [email protected] (818) 713-3738160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! And so the 27-year-old Palmdale resident spent her Saturday morning trying out the life of a firefighter at a Los Angeles Fire Department recruiting fair. The athletic Navy veteran found it to her liking and soon plans to take the test to join the department. The LAFD, stung by criticism of a firehouse culture historically perceived as both racist and sexist, has labored in recent years to increase the number of women in its ranks. Women currently make up less than 2.7 percent of the department’s 3,700 personnel, according to Capt. Darnell Wade of the LAFD recruitment unit. With plans to hire 250 people by the end of the fiscal year, Wade and his fellow recruiters aim to make a good number of those new hires women.

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