Growing number of women graduating from firefighting programs

The Toronto Fire Services says more and more women are rising to the top of the profession, and more are becoming firefighters.

'I did everything I could to train physically to give myself as much help as I needed for the job'

The Toronto Fire Services says more and more women are rising to the top of the profession, and more are becoming firefighters. 0:45

For the first time on record, the Toronto Fire Services' top three graduates are women, and the service says more and more women are not only becoming firefighters but rising to the top of the profession.

One of the top graduates, Katherine Shirriff, said she was drawn to the profession because it is a social one and that firefighting means she doesn't have to sit behind a desk all day.

Her background in sports helps a lot too, she said.

"I did everything I could to train physically to give myself as much help as I needed for the job," she said.

Another graduate, Whytney Hooker, said at first she was a bit intimidated by the job.

"Everyone I know, it's their father, their uncle, their brothers — there were no females influencing me to come here so that may have been something holding me back a little bit," she says.

"I was like, 'I'm not really sure I could do that', but once you get beyond that, it's like, 'Why can't I?'"

Scott Eyers, who leads the fire service's training department, says the women's success shows the field is changing. He said that in 2013, the city began to reach out to try to get more women into the service.

"The city started ... kind of showcasing this is a job you can do, and we've started to get more women and minorities applying and now we're starting to seeing the fruits of what they were planting," he said.

Eyers says in the past, women made up less than 5 per cent of a firefighting class.  Since 2013, the number is closer to 15-20 per cent.