Fayetteville Fire Department pushing to recruit more women firefighters: 'A great opportunity'

Monique John Image
Friday, October 6, 2023
Fayetteville fire dept. pushing to recruit more female firefighters
The fire department is encouraging women to come to its annual Women in Fire Service Event on Saturday

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Fayetteville Fire Department is working to recruit more women firefighters through an event this weekend spreading awareness about the service.

For three years, the department has tried to recruit more women. But now, department officials say it still urgently needs a more diverse force. Fayetteville fire's recruitment captain says women make up only about 5 percent of the service. That's 16 female firefighters out of 345 in total.

As a result, the department is encouraging women to come to its annual Women in Fire Service Event on Saturday at its training facility on Radar Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Captain Zahra McBee of the department says she was inspired to become a firefighter after she saw someone helping victims in a car accident when she was 19 years old. She says she wants other women to experience the purpose and fulfillment she's had after 26 years in the profession:

"Every single day, every single encounter is different. And it's a family away from a family, so we spend a third of our life with the people that we work with. We're here 24 hours so you get to influence other people, be influenced by other people that make you a better person and better for this job," Captain McBee said.

At the event, women can talk to other women about the service, hone interview skills, and practice physical fitness and fire-fighting drills.

"We're looking for people who want to serve their community, number one, first and foremost," said Recruiting Captain Stephen Shakeshaft. "And let's face it, most of the time, women are better nurturers and want to care for people. That's a typical trait of women and we need that because 80% of our calls are medical-related and caring for folks."

Captain McBee adds that women are also especially valued when it comes to responding to fires.

"Females tend to be very detail-oriented which is important in the fire aspect of it for noticing the important things about when you're entering into a dangerous atmosphere."

The fire department says it's pushing past its legacy as a male-dominated field so more women can benefit from its employment opportunities.

"It's a great opportunity if you're looking for something not only just stable but with great benefits, great time off to spend with your family..." Captain Shakeshaft said. "(S)o the stability and knowing that this career isn't going anywhere and you're going to get back from it just as much as you put into it is really nice to know and have that assurance."

Anyone interested in attending the Women in Fire event can contact Captain Shakeshaft through the Fayetteville Fire Department.

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