Publish Date: Mon, 07 May 2018 13:03:00 -0800

Women in the Fire Service

Fire tech students pose in front of Redlands Fire Department truck.

Giana Devain went to college to become a teacher.

But after discovering the career may not be for her, the 29-year-old Riverside resident began exploring other options.

On Saturday, April 28, Devain was one of 20 who took part in the third annual Women in the Fire Service Open House at Crafton Hills College.

Hosted by CHC’s fire academy and fire tech programs, the multi-hour, hands-on event looked to draw women to the fire service – the biggest hurdle currently facing the industry.

According to the National Fire Protection Service, only 289,200 women – or 4.5 percent – hold a job in the field. Of that number, only 9.2 percent employed are African-American women, while 9 percent are Hispanic. Hosting events like the April 29 open house looked to make a dent in those stats, said Chief Mike Alder, chief of Crafton’s fire academy.

“And we hope it will,” he said.

Participants were split into groups and ushered to stations – or 30-minute circuits - in and around Crafton’s Public Safety & Allied Health Building. There, they learned how to properly handle equipment, were able to take part in training exercises, and ask questions directly to women in the field such as Alison Hesterly, a captain with Cal Fire.

Like others before her, Hesterly was once told the industry was “too dangerous” for women. But that didn’t stop her from accomplishing her goal – it sparked her interest even more, she said.

“I told them, ‘I don’t care. I’m doing it anyways because it is what I want to do,’” she said. “Ultimately, I want the girls here to today to know no matter what they can do this. Period.”

And that was kind of the sentiment Devain was looking for.

Not only could the history major see herself in the field, she said, Devain recalled the meaning behind her decision.

“My dad was sick for about 10 years – he had multiple strokes – and when firefighters and paramedics would come to take him to the hospital, there was always this sense of calm. And I thought, I could do this as a career,” she said.

The open house was free and open to all who registered in advance.

In addition to the workshops, guests were welcome to learn more about Crafton Hills College and its many programs available.

Lunch was provided by Redlands-based JoJo’s Grill-a-Dog