February 25, 2020 – Recent media coverage has highlighted women assuming leadership positions in the fire service as well as filling rank and file roles, but the number of female firefighters in the United States remains relatively low, according to the U.S. Fire Department Profile released by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) today. The news comes at a time when The Los Angeles Times reports that one of the nation’s largest fire departments will fall short of their 2020 female hiring goal; and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that women have surpassed the number of men working in America by more than one hundred thousand.
The new NFPA report provides an overview of 29,705 local and municipal fire departments in the country; and estimates that in 2018, only 93,700, or eight percent, of the 1,115,000 firefighters in the United States were female. More specifically, 15,200 or four percent of career firefighters and 78,500 volunteer firefighters or 11 percent were women.
Comparatively, 13 percent of police officers or detectives were female; 21 percent of paramedics or EMTs were women; and 20 percent of the U.S. military is made up of females, with each branch surpassing the number of females in fire uniforms. Women comprise 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army and almost eight percent of the Marine Corps).
The good news is that women in various parts of the country are taking lead roles and getting recognized in their communities. For example:
- Tonya Hoover was appointed in early February to the second highest fire position in the country – Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator. The nation’s top female fire leader is responsible for the training of more than 100,000 first responders annually via the National Fire Academy (NFA); the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) which documents and analyzes 27 million fire department emergency responses a year; and USFA’s fire prevention, public information and public education programs.
- Tiffany Green, from Prince George’s County, Maryland recently became chief of the largest combination career and volunteer fire department in the nation.
- Decatur, Georgia’s top three fire leadership positions are held by women.
- Fire shifts staffed completely by females are generating attention from the Bay Area of California to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Brockton, Massachusetts.
“Today’s fire service plays a critical role in protecting people and property from a myriad of challenges. That role is enhanced when we prioritize the hiring and promotion of diverse candidates, including female firefighters, to be reflective of our communities and the overall US labor pool,” said Amy Hanifan, President of Women in Fire, which provides education, support and advocacy for fire service women. “It is refreshing to see positive signs of change in the fire service, and promising that there is a desire to cultivate even more change in the future.” About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.