The U.S. Fire Administration reports that among the nation’s firefighters, only 9% are women and only 5% of career (paid) firefighters are women. These are small percentages but compared to 40 years ago, they are huge.
Cindie Schooner-Ball knows all about it and tells her remarkable story in her book Sister In A Brotherhood. In the mid 1980s she became one of the very few women who signed up to become firefighters, a daunting prospect in a domain that for more than a century was for men only. The idea was planted in her brain by a local fire chief one day when she visited her boyfriend at the firehouse during a time when she was bouncing from job to job.
“I would go to the firehouse and I was sitting at a table and talking to chief,” she recalls. “And I knew the guys sitting at this long table, you know, firefighters on both sides, and I’m telling the chief, you know, i’m 28, I’m just tired of all these jobs. And they all knew I worked out. I ran all the races and he looked at me and he goes, you know, you ought to become a firefighter. And I said yeah, okay sure. You’re nuts.”
I year later, she revisited the idea, enrolled at the fire academy and began what would be a 28-year career as a firefighter, EMT and paramedic in several Florida communities. She retired in 2015 at the rank of Captain, an achievement she is particularly proud of, capping a career she loved.
“My years on the job were thrilling, terrifying, funny, sad, dangerous, and yes, sometimes boring. But they were never ordinary. After my retirement, I never expected to miss the adrenaline rush so much.“–from Sister In A Brotherhood
Today, Cindie is all about spreading the word to young women that the fire service can be on their radar.
“It’s a great career. And as you move up the ranks, you have to make tough decisions. I started out as one of two women to make it in the fire service. And then I drove all the trucks, you know, the fire trucks ladder trucks, I was not mechanically inclined. But I learned. Go for it!”
Check out my full chat with Cindie on the Type. Tune. Tint. podcast and video below: