SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Sacramento Fire Department is relaunching a program aimed at bringing more women into the fire service.
It comes as the department battles high-profile accusations of racism and sexual harassment.
Kirsten Goodridge said she has wanted to be a firefighter for about as long as she can remember.
“We have a family member who was a firefighter and he got us to go on a couple of ridealongs,” she told FOX40. “And my brother wanted to be one and he never went through with it, and we were really competitive and I was like, ‘I’m going to do this.’”
On the other hand, Assistant Chief Kim Iannucci didn’t see her career in the fire service coming until she worked alongside a female firefighter.
“Having that ally completely formed my desire to be a firefighter,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a park ranger and it completely changed my mind.”
Though their careers with the Sacramento Fire Department started 40 years apart, the common thread is they were both introduced to the field by someone close to them who opened their eyes about what was possible.
The department is looking to do that for girls across Sacramento with their two-day, hands-on program led by female firefighters and geared toward future female firefighters.
“Climbing ladders, throwing ladders, ropes, doing forceable entry,” said Sacramento Fire Capt. Sharon McIntyre. “How many women do you know at a high school age have been able to have the opportunity to start a chainsaw, or run a circ saw, or cut through metal, or force a door, or deal with doing search operations in a smoked out environment?”
The girls camp is one of several initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining firefighters from the Sacramento community, particularly women and those from minority communities.
A comparison of the overall city population to firefighting staff shows white men are the only group overrepresented. White residents are 46% of Sacramento’s city population but 74% of Sacramento firefighters.
Latinos are almost 40% of the city’s population but 13% of firefighters, while Asians make up 19% of the city’s population but only 7% of its firefighters. Black residents make up 13% of the city, versus 2% of the fire department.
Nationally, only about 4% of career firefighters are women. That percentage is the same for the Sacramento Fire Department, even though women make up more than half of the city’s population.
The numbers and allegations of racism and sexual harassment have the Sacramento Fire Department under pressure to improve diversity in their ranks.
“But what it does is it drives me to want to do better,” Iannucci said.
Assistant Chief Iannuccui leads the Sacramento Fire Department’s new Diversity, Outreach, and Recruitment Department. With a recent allotment of $2.2 million, the assistant chief said she believes the department can create long-term investments in communities through programs like the reserves, aimed at bridging the three- to four-year gap between high school graduation and firefighter eligibility age. There is also Women in Fire, a professional development program to help women climb the ranks.
The camp is for young women in grades 9-12. It is scheduled for Oct. 23 and Oct. 24, but you can start the application process now. If interested, email the Sacramento Fire Department at Join@sacfire.org.