PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — While firefighting is traditionally a male-dominated profession, the Peoria Fire Department is making an effort to recruit more women to be firefighters.
The department recently shared a video to Facebook highlighting their female firefighters. For those like Savannah Bushman, who is a Peoria firefighter, it shows that firefighting is something women are more than capable of.
“Showcasing that we’re able to get up on a truck and cut a roof and just to show that it’s possible, I think there’s so many opportunities for fitness and educating people on that, I just think that’s super important to stress to young women,” she said.
Nationally, the percentage of female firefighters is around 4%. Peoria is lower than that percentage, but Division Chief of Operations Lore Baxter sees the tides turning.
“I see things changing here locally, which is a good sign, we do have more females testing and striving for this opportunity,” Baxter said.
Baxter also mentioned that the department offers ride-alongs and opportunities to see how they operate. Peoria Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger added that the department is easily accessible and those interested in firefighting can simply call the station on Monroe St.
Sollberger said one of his big goals when he took over as chief was to get to 10 female firefighters. They are currently at 5, and he thinks they can achieve their goal.
“I challenged myself when I took this job and I came up with this arbitrary number of 10, it seemed rather lofty at the time, but now knowing that we’re halfway there, we feel like this is accomplishable,” he said.
Sollberger added that breaking the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding women firefighters is important. He thinks the video is another step forward towards doing that.
“Our female firefighters that we have now, we wanted to capture that, and then be able to tell their story, we did not orchestrate it at all, we just wanted them to tell their story, hopefully, they can strike the nerve of one person out there,” Sollberger said.