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Houston Pushes for More Females to Join the Brotherhood

Houston Pushes for More Females to Join the Brotherhood

Courtesy Houston Fire Department

Houston Chronicle via YellowBrix

March 01, 2010

HOUSTON – Her small frame consumed by 60 pounds of firefighting gear, 18-year-old Andreina Rodriguez paused to steal a moment on the steps after escaping a burning building.

Her expression masked by her helmet, Andreina quietly pumped her fists in the air.

She was celebrating guts; that her grit had overpowered fear.

Moments later, the sweat-soaked Sterling High teen freed her head, collected her long, black ponytail and explained why she was considering a male-dominated profession.

“I like knowing I can do what men can do. I’m not weak,” said Andreina, who has four older brothers and who is considering joining the Houston Fire Department after she turns 19.

She was among nearly two dozen teenage girls to participate this weekend in Camp Houston Fire, part of a new effort to recruit more women to the Houston Fire Department.

The biannual event, free to participants, will be held again in November.

Of the city’s nearly 3,900 firefighters, about 100 are women, said Kim Phillips, event chairwoman and spokeswoman for an organization for female firefighters called The Sirens, which has about 60 active members.

HFD has been on the defensive since allegations last July of discrimination at Station 54 at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Firefighters Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes found sexist and racist graffiti scrawled on their lockers after they complained about poor treatment.

Phillips said the incidents at that station spawned more dialogue among women about recruiting and retaining females.

“We needed a long-range plan to recruit women,” she said. “Certainly we have not been successful in recruiting women in the last 10 years. Some of that might be attitude, some of that might be budget.”

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