Spokane County Fire's first all-female squad an inspiration, chief says

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Twenty-five years ago, a group of women making up a firefighting shift might have ruffled some feathers in the male-dominated industry.

Now, it's par for the course in Spokane County Fire District 10, which put together its first all-female firefighting shift earlier this month, said chief Orlando Sandoval.

"These girls I call sisters... will go into battle with you ladies any time, any place," said District 10 firefighter Shaun Mashtare on Facebook.

Twelve of the departments 84 firefighting reservists are women, Sandoval said,  a higher percentage of women on the crew than anytime in the past.

And they have more than the nationwide average. Only about seven percent of firefighters are female nationwide, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

Men and women firefighters typically work alongside each other during the department's 12-hour on-call shifts. But a few months ago, the women reservists asked if they could all be together on a single shift.

"I thought it was one of those fun things we could do," Sandoval said. "It took a while to work the schedule out, but we made it happen."

SCFD 10 took some pictures of the shift group for their Facebook page to celebrate the first all-female shift.

In a short time, news stations were calling. Their post had thousands of views.

"All the girls were super excited," Sandoval said.

It's great to have a high percentage of female firefighters because it gives younger generations something to look toward, Sandoval said. Just last week a girl came into the firehouse for a tour and her "eyes lit up" when she spotted the female firefighters.

"This has always been a male-dominated profession," Sandoval said. "Little girls see something like this and they're inspired."