''Trial by Fire: No female firefighters in the city.
The front-page article in _The Riverfront Times_, St. Louis' most
liberal free weekly, was on female firefighters. It was entitled "Trial
by Fire: There are no female firefighters in the city. Women like Beth
Brambilla (large color photo in full fire gear) intend to change that."
The article explores the issues in about as many different ways as they
can think of.
FOR BACKGROUND: There are no women firefighters in the CITY of St.
Louis. There are a few in the COUNTY.
For some reason (hint: expected lawsuits) the city
hired the local YMCA to hold special training classes
for women, to prepare them for the Phoenix test (which
simulates actual firefighting situations, like carrying
hose and ladders and breaking into roofs, and was
designed to be non-sexist).
The classes specifically prepare the women for the
test. The classes are paid for by the city. No men
were allowed to take the classes.
Needless to say, the men who plan to take the test in
August think this is an unfair advantage.
Officials maintain that (1) all applicants get to see
the test equipment and can use the equipment to train
(men pay a fee) and (2) "Rather than be forced by a
court order to hire women -- which most agree would
mean lowering the physical standards -- one official
says it's better to treat women as a 'protected class' and
and offer advanced training.
WHAT THE TROOPS THINK
"Firefighters interviewed by the RFT expressed a whole
array of concerns, ranging from the ability of women
to remain fit as they age ('I mean, look at our moms')
to the trouble working 24-hour shifts can pose some
firemen's wives, to strong worries that women won't be
able to save male firefighters should they collapse in
a blaze. And, they add, they may have to change their
work demeanor in very basic ways -- from perhaps
removing their pin-ups on their lockers to curbing
their language and their pranks. . . . One St. Louis
firefighter noted that the city is now offering
firefighters instruction on sexual harassment,
teaching what exactly constitutes harassment and how
to avoid it. 'We've just been exposed to a sexual
harassment guide,' he says. 'None of it's intentional
but, boy, are we in trouble.'"
WHY THE WOMEN WANT IN
The answers are as varied as the women themselves.
One wants to be a 4th generation firefighter. Some
are clerical workers looking for more interesting
jobs. One is an unemployed med. tech. One was in
the Army and now works in a medical office. One is
a waitress. When asked about dangers, one woman
said: "The thought of death doesn't frighten me. . .
I mean, I could be behind my computer in an electrical
storm and get electrocuted."