Women blazing next generation's trail into emergency services

Women have a vital role to play in emergency services, and a group of women who work and volunteer in the sector want to make sure the next generation know the opportunities that are open to them.

Beth Slender, who has worked with the Rural Fire Service's Mid Lachlan Valley Fire Control Centre in Forbes and is now with the Western Area Command in Young, is one of those women.

She's absolutely passionate about their project, Girls on Fire, which launched in 2018.

They hosted a hugely successful six-day camp where 20 girls put out fires, wore breathing apparatus, practiced water rescue and used the jaws of life to cut open a vehicle.

The devastating fires of last summer saw plans to build on that pilot camp put on hold - now the Girls on Fire are determined COVID-19 won't put them off any longer.

During early November 2020, Girls on Fire are hosting COVID-19 safe day programs across regional NSW designed to challenge, test and motivate the next generation of female emergency service workers.

The camps will now involve an online portion as well as a one-day, in-person intensive session.

Beth is coordinating our region's event in Dubbo, they're also happening in Sydney, Tenterfield, Kempsey, Moruya and Narrandera.

In small groups our instructors will run through practical, leadership and industry skills used by emergency services, she explained.

Founder, Bronnie Mackintosh, Manager of Inclusion and Diversity at Fire and Rescue NSW said these programs have been driven by the mantra, "you can't be what you can't see".

Beth said most of those first campers have joined the RFS, one is now in the final stages of recruitment for a permanent role in Fire and Rescue.

Their parents report they have taken up leadership roles in school, sporting teams and joined programs like Duke of Edinburgh.

"Even if we don't capture them within our industry we know we have given them skills and confidence to excel in their chosen fields" Beth said.

She believes it's vital that women are well represented in the emergency services, as the sector represents the diversity of the communities they seek to serve.

Go online to www.girlsonfire.com.au and the organisation's Facebook page Girls on Fire to keep up to date with announcements and find the application.