Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's trying to attract women firefighters

The St. John's regional fire department says it's trying to convince more young women to consider careers in firefighting.
Firefighters douse a van fire in the Cowan Heights area of St. John's in April 2012. (Submitted by Ian Lehr)

The St. John's Regional Fire Department says it’s trying to convince more young women to consider a career in firefighting.

Right now only three of 160 firefighters in the regional fire department are women, even though the province has been holding firefighting camps for women since 2005.

Last year, the fire department offered a one-week orientation camp for women but the response was disappointing - only one woman registered.

"We have re-evaluated what we did last year," said St. John's deputy fire chief Jerry Peach.

Peach said the department is also employing a powerful new tool - social media.

"I'm getting reports back that Facebook and Twitter are already raising some interest in some areas," he said.

The orientation camp runs from July 9 to 13. The goal is to attract 10 to 20 participants.

Accused of discrimination in 2010

In 2010, St. John's Regional Fire Department was accused of discriminating against women when it hires firefighters.

Back then, a woman who applied for a job with the department said that she was one of three women who were denied interviews for nine job openings.

Stephanie Alyward, 25, had worked as a firefighter in Fort McMurray, Alta., for two years before applying.

She passed both the written and physical exams required to work with the St. John's department, but her bid to get work as a firefighter in her hometown ended there.

Three women, including Alyward's sister, passed both exams. None of them was asked to interview for the nine jobs available. Thirty men were interviewed for the jobs.