All-female team makes history at Fire District 8

All-female team makes history at Fire District 8
Spokane County Fire District 8

When two firefighters clocked into work Monday, they didn’t realize they’d be making history. In a first for Spokane County Fire District 8, an all-female firefighting team ran the paramedic unit.

But Meg Williams and Jennifer Raudebaugh say despite Monday’s milestone, it felt like any other day on the job.

“I still don’t think anything different of it. I just show up for shift,” said Williams, a firefighter paramedic. “The guys here are really great, so they treat us equal.”

The two say they only found out about their history-making shift when their captain pointed it out.

“This is a totally normal shift,” Raudebaugh, a volunteer firefighter, said. “We came up, we got dressed, we showed up and it was not an issue.”

It was a first without much fanfare. Williams and Raudebaugh said they just wanted to do their jobs without making a big deal out of their historic shift.

“The fire doesn’t know I’m a woman. The fire doesn’t know that I’m a volunteer. It doesn’t care,” Raudebaugh said. “So I have to be the best that I can be every single day. The public counts on it.”

They hope their community — and this country — can count on more women in the future when it comes to firefighting.

“It is good to have females on crews for those calls where people aren’t necessarily comfortable with a man helping them,” said Williams. “It’s intimidating to have four big guys walk into your house and say, ‘hey I’m here to help you,’ well — yeah, there’s certain things that we don’t really want to talk about with them occasionally.”

Raudebaugh hopes she can be an example to the next generation of women.

“I get kind of choked up about it. I want to inspire little girls – like, little girls at the grocery store go, ‘oh my gosh, I didn’t know I could be a firefighter,'” she said. “I’m like, ‘of course you can be a firefighter! Why wouldn’t you want to be? It’s pretty awesome.'”

Williams and Raudebaugh hope all-female teams like Monday’s at Fire District 8 become the new norm in the firefighting community — a field that is made up by just 7 percent of female firefighters. Monday, they say, was a step in the right direction.

“It’s not like people go, ‘oh, well we want more women in the fire service.’ We still have to go through the same recruit school. We still have to have that physical agility and it’s pass or fail,” Raudebaugh said. “It’s not firemen or fireladies, it’s — they’re firefighters.”

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