WHEN Bronwyn Griffith made the career change from physical education teacher to fire fighter 11 years ago she was part of a handful of females on the job but the numbers are growing.
‘‘When I first started I was the 34th registered female fire fighter in New South Wales, but now there would be well over 100 women out of the 3000 permanent fire fighters,’’ she said.
Griffith is a senior fire officer at the Queanbeyan Fire Station and said her gender has never been an issue. She is one of two females at the station.
‘‘The guys are open-minded [about working with females] but I believe a lot of women before me paved the way,’’ she said. ‘‘I haven’t had any trouble and I’m treated the same as the guys. That’s what you want, you don’t want to be treated differently.’’
The 42-year-old has worked at the local station for about seven years, previously doing a stint at Glebe Fire Station.
‘‘During my time, I’ve attended mainly a few house fires and some motor vehicle accidents but I haven’t had to go to any major incidences,’’ she said. ‘‘[When we get the call out] you do feel your heart beating quicker because you’re not sure what you’re going to until you get the print out. You do get that adrenaline hit.’’
She says the possibility of facing a fatality or seriously injured people weighs heavily on her mind.
The Queanbeyan Fire Station crew has been working together for about three to four years and Griffith said a strong relationship was vital in that environment.
‘‘Teamwork is important, and good communication especially in a fire. You have to rely on each other because you can’t do it by yourself,’’ she said. ‘‘On the way there, as a team, we’re deciding what we’re going to do and your training kicks in to decide the steps you need to take.’’
A fire fighter’s job requires a strong body but also a strong mind.
‘‘You deal with unexpected things and each incident isn’t the same so you never know what your day is going to be like,’’ she said. ‘‘You have to have your wits about you on the job. Sometimes the smoke is so thick you can’t see in front of you so you have to go by feel. People think the flames are the worst things about a fire but the smoke and smoke inhalation is a problem.’’
Griffith said the most enjoyable aspect of the job was being able to help others.
‘‘I find it very satisfying when I can help people so I can’t see myself leaving the job anytime soon.’’
However, she feels frustrated when she knows most fires and accidents can be prevented.
‘‘Make sure you have a working smoke alarm and an escape plan [in case of a fire]. Use common sense and don’t leave the house while something is cooking or with the dishwasher still turned on and remove lint out of the clothes dryer,’’ she said. ‘‘With winter coming up it is important that people clean their chimney and don’t leave clothes on their heaters.’’
Being a fire officer is not just limited to fighting flames but also educating the public with officers visiting schools and talking to the community about fire safety.
This Saturday, May 5 the Queanbeyan Fire Station will hold its annual open day from 10am to 2pm.