KATY, HARRIS COUNTY (Covering Katy News) - As the Katy area grows, so does the Harris County Emergency Services District 48 Fire Department, and one of the ways the fire department has been keeping up with an increased workload is by hiring more firefighters – currently seven of them are women. Today, there are more women fighting fires at HCESD 48 than ever before, and they are moving up the ranks within their department.
Maria Cardenas was recently promoted to her position as lieutenant. She says there’s no difference in either curriculum or training for female firefighters.
“I am glad it is not different,” Cardenas said. “I do not see the reason why it should be. I strongly believe we should all train on the same level.”
There are physical requirements that every firefighter must meet no matter their gender. They wear 60 pounds of gear, plus the weight of the hose and tools that they carry. It’s a stressful job compounded by working in 300 plus degree heat.
HCESD 48 FD covers a portion of Harris County both north and south of I-10 stretching from Clay Road on the north to the Harris County line on the south. It covers the unincorporated areas of that part of Harris County, which has seen an explosion in population over the past decade. As Harris County and the surrounding area continues to grow in population, the need for firefighters and other first responders will continue to grow as well. That sets the stage for having even more women fighting fires in the future.
Bryttnii Loya has 10 years in the fire services and three years with HCESD 48. She has found a welcoming home in the Katy-area department.
“I never feel like they are being easy, but I also don’t feel like they are being too rough on me,” Loya said. “They look more for the areas of improvement and help me to adapt and overcome. After all, a fire workload doesn’t lessen for a man or woman. We just work our hardest and give our best.”
“If a home is on fire, the owners don’t care if a man or woman is behind the equipment and tools,” Firefighter Machelle Richter said.
“When I’m with my crew, it’s a family and we are all equal,” six-year firefighter and emergency medical technician Kristen Perry said. “It is a tough job. Yet it’s also rewarding.”
“Being a firefighter is the best job in the world,” says Monica Wagers, an engineer/operator with 23 years in the fire service. “We are all one family and are always there for each other no matter what. Not many people are willing to do what we do. It takes a special kind of individual to willingly put their life on the line for someone they never met.”
Wagers said many females ask about becoming a firefighter.
“I tell them to go to the fire academy where they can work on their fire science degree. They need to get in shape and work out before they start the academy. I know because I teach at one, and the instructors will not pass anyone if they cannot physically do the job, male or female.”
Daisy Noyola, a firefighter/EMT who recently went full time with the district, was also encouraging.
“Go for it,” Noyola said. “If you are absolutely unsure if you’d like the fire service, find a department where you can start off as a volunteer. Being a volunteer is a great way for you to get exposure into the fire service and is generally way cheaper and less time demanding than going straight to a college fire academy. If you already know in your heart that this is the profession for you, then just go all in already! Do not underestimate yourself. You are way more capable of a lot of things than what you might think. Never stop challenging yourself.”
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