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2013 September 2 - 12:00 am

TRACKING TRENDS : Camp Encourages Girls To See Fire, EMT Careers

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) — As a child, Lisa Schuetz would feel a tingle of excitement when she saw a firetruck or an ambulance speed past her.

Still, as a girl, the notion of one day becoming a firefighter or an emergency medical technician didn’t occur to her. Only later, as an adult, after she saw an advertisement for volunteer firefighters, did she consider becoming one.

“I never thought of it. ... When I graduated high school I never thought that was for me,” said Schuetz, who is now the emergency medical services supervisor for the Altoona Fire Department.

Schuetz, along with instructors in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s fire service program and other area firefighters, hope to inspire today’s generation of girls to see a career as a firefighter or an EMT as an opportunity open to them.

That’s why CVTC this summer hosted “Girls on Fire,” a five-day camp for teenage girls, grades seven to 12. During the camp, the girls participated in a series of simulated firefighting and emergency situations.

“I liked all of them,” Cheyenne Jeanne, 15, of River Falls, who participated in the camp, said of the events.

Twenty-four girls participated in the camp, while 36 applied. Organizers intend for the camp to become an annual event.

Marcy Bruflat, CVTC fire services instructor and program director, first proposed the camp in 2007 and has worked the past six years to get it up and running.

Bruflat and others at CVTC secured several grants, and W.S. Darley, a fire service equipment manufacturer with a plant in Chippewa Falls, made a donation to the program. Cooperation from area fire departments, the city and UW-Eau Claire also helped the camp, Bruflat said.

Today, men still dominate fire and emergency service departments, said Bruflat and others in the industry. They said that while the number of women working as firefighters and EMTs has grown in recent years, they still represent a small percentage of the overall workforce.

The problem isn’t that women can’t get into the industry but rather they’re not showing interest, Bruflat said.

Bruflat said for girls to see and work with firefighters, including women firefighters, could inspire them to pursue a career in the industry.

“It’s nice to give them exposure to say, ‘This is something you could do,’” Bruflat said.

Kenna Blum, 12, s attended the camp and said she’s interested in perhaps becoming a firefighter or a police officer.

The camp was fun, she said, and exercises that included climbing obstacles challenged her to overcome her fear of heights. It felt good to overcome her fear, she said.

Bruflat and other camp organizers said if the girls in the camp don’t become firefighters that’s fine, but hopefully the experience instills in them the confidence and leadership to pursue the career path they desire.

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