COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— First responders are everyday heroes, serving the community they live in. However, they also serve as models for citizens. WRBL spoke with two out of four women who made history here in Columbus and set a precedent for other women looking to start their career in public safety.
The Columbus Fire Department started in 1831, in 2001 the department merged with emergency medical services to become Columbus Fire & EMS. In the 191 years since its genesis, Engine 11 was staffed by all women on Aug. 24, 2022.
Sgt. Jennifer Smith, Lt. Anne Land, firefighter Ashley Threatt, and fire medic Jenny Baldwin made history in the Fountain City as the first all-female squad out of Station 11.
Typically, four people are assigned to a truck. The staff is made up of a sergeant, lieutenant, and two firefighters. It just so happened that day the schedule composed the first all-female staff for Engine 11, all four women seized the opportunity that presented itself.
Sgt. Smith says this feat is rare as Columbus Fire & EMS only has between eight to 10 women responding to calls during the week, and to have four of them on one engine was never-before seen.
“We just welcome the opportunity, we’re happy to be here. I think it just really lends a lot of credibility to the fire service and public safety in general,” Sgt. Smith says. “They want to have a diverse group of personnel, and you’re starting to see more and more women apply and we’re we’re excited about that.”
Lt. Land says this opportunity proves that women can.
“This is showing that we do have diversity and that the opportunity is there for women, and girls in the city that realize that they want to be a firefighter. It is possible,” Lt. Land says.
The same standards are set for both men and women in the department. Public safety still remains a largely male-dominated field with only 4% of firefighters across the U.S. being made up of women. The field itself is calling for adversity, and she says the community is catching up.
“It was very exciting going on calls and just seeing the looks on people’s faces and you know, you got all female coming off the truck and they’re all looking at you like, ‘Oh wow, all females.’ So, they were they were happy as well,” Lt. Land describes. “They were impressed. So it was it was a great opportunity. It was exciting moment for all of us. It’s something that will always be meaningful to us. We all just had a great day, it’s something that can never be duplicated. So it’s exciting being a part of history.”
Both women encourage anyone interested in joining public safety, or Station 11, to pursue that dream and not to let anyone tell you, you aren’t capable.
“I would just encourage anybody who is interested and joining to call down to our training division, call down to our headquarters and ask questions. We have the Citizens Fire Academy and different things going on where you can get involved and see what this job is about,” Sgt. Smith encourages.
“If this is what you’re wanting to do and this is your calling, train for it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” Lt. Land asserts.
Anyone interested in joining Columbus Fire & EMS is asked to call their training division at 706-653-3543, visit their headquarters at 510 10th St., or even Station 11 located at 4617 Warm Springs Rd. to ask questions and get more information.
The main line to Columbus Fire & EMS is 706-653-3500.