NOTE: TWO PHOTOS AND ETHNIC MAKEUP CHART
Firefighting has traditionally been left to Anglo men, but the new chief will try to change that.
A big drive will begin next week to find women and minority recruits for the Tucson Fire Department – where nearly 80 percent of the firefighters are Anglo and only 2.3 percent are women.
A decade after the department hired its first woman firefighter, 10 of its 431 firefighters are female – and Fire Chief Frederick L. Shipman wants the hiring balance improved.
Deanna Lewis, one of those heading up the recruiting drive, was the department’s first woman firefighter.
Lewis said Shipman, named fire chief last February, has supported her minority recruiting efforts.
“To me,’ Shipman said, “we need to have the Fire Department made of a total blend of this community, and we need to bring women into the Fire Department, too.’
Lewis said one of the recruiting campaign’s goals will be to raise awareness among Tucson-area women that the fire service can be a satisfying career.
Firefighting often is seen as a man’s profession, and, Lewis said, many women do not think of it when considering careers.
“I can never remember any of my (school) counselors telling me the fire service was an option,’ Lewis said.
Lewis, 31, and now a fire inspector, graduated from Pima Community College with an associate of arts degree in general studies. She is continuing her studies there, with the hope of transferring to the University of Arizona to get a bachelor’s degree.
Some male firefighters still believe firefighting is “a man’s job,’ Lewis noted. “But it (that attitude) is probably changing slowly.’
That attitude, however, did not pose problems for her during her early days as a firefighter, she said.
If anything, senior officers tried to act as mentors to her, she said.
The recruiting campaign will begin Monday with the slogan “A Decade of Women in the Fire Service.’
As part of the effort, the department will sponsor a firefighting competition among 20 to 25 PCC students from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at the college’s west campus, 2202 W. Anklam Road.
The contestants will suit up in full firefighting gear and will compete in such events as running an obstacle course.
Also, city recruiters will visit Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca to talk with potential firefighters.
While the drive is aimed at women and minorities, anyone meeting a list of qualifications will be considered. Those include being at least 18 years old, having a high school or equivalency degree and being in sound mental and physical condition.
Lewis said the department has a 20-year retirement program and offers jobs including firefighting, paramedic service, public education, administration and management.
For more information about becoming a city firefighter, call 791-4502 during weekday business hours.
PHOTOS: XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen-1) Michelle Maliniak (left) and Deanna L. Lewis help form the Tucson Fire Department’s award-winning “Muster Team.’ Here, they practice a bucket brigade exercise at the Tucson Fire Academy yesterday. 2) Members of the women firefighters’ muster team practice for the hose cart event. From left are Diana Benson, Nancy Avery, Kathy Hansen, Michelle Maliniak and Dianne Wygal.