"You can't be what you can't see ... I want to show students what they can be," Vernon Fire Rescue Lieut. Allyson Reich says.
That was her message Wednesday as female high school students spent the day as firefighters, learning the ropes of fire engines, fire hoses, and hearing about career options in emergency services.
Igniting the possibilities included getting a ride 110 feet up in the department's ladder truck, and getting some hands-on experience with fire hoses, as well as witnessing the Jaws of Life in action.
The event was geared towards encouraging more women into the field.
Reich is the only female firefighter at VFRS, with one other in administration.
"Women are very under-represented in the fire service," said Reich, who was the driving force behind the activities.
"We want to open up the experiences to young women, so they know what's possible."
Students from Seaton and Fulton secondary schools took part in the day-long event, with the morning spent on theory and learning about careers from dispatch to firefighting as well as fire inspections and investigations.
The afternoon was action-packed, with demonstrations and hands-on experiences – all while the girls were decked out in full turnout gear.
Reich says out of 4,300 professional firefighters in B.C., only 175 are female.
"If I can help inspire some to become firefighters, I have done my job," she said.
Reich has been a firefighter for 18 years, and was volunteer for another four.
She says breaking the stereotype of the old boys' network has not been an issue.
"The guys are consummate professionals, respectful ... there's a sense of family and camaraderie."
Student Ivy Jensen said she's eager to become a firefighter.
She said the day was "incredible" and "a once in a lifetime experience."
Jensen says her interest in the career stems from friends and family who are firefighters and police officers.
Reich says a full set of firefighting gear can weigh about 100 pounds, including turnout gear, breathing apparatus and tools.
Those interested in the job will need a Grade 12 diploma plus 30 credits of post-secondary education, along with National Fire Protection Association training.