BY KELLY ROCHE
Women make up three per cent of front line fire crews in Mississauga and the City is aiming to change those numbers with a specialized summer camp targeting teen girls.
Applications are being accepted until Wednesday for Camp Ignite.
Led by Mississauga’s first female firefighter, Shelli Varela, 20 girls, ages 15 to 19, will explore a career in fire service.
“Girls often don’t have that same natural connection to firefighting that young boys frequently embrace,” said Varela.
She joined Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services in 1994 and was later promoted to the position of captain in 2008.
As of November 2015, MFES had 18 female firefighters assigned to front line emergency response units.
Overall, women make up six per cent of the total department complement, including communications, administration, fire prevention and other support services, according to fire officials.
“Diversity in our fire service is an extremely important issue for us. It’s essential that residents are able to see themselves in the crews that are proudly serving their city,” said Fire Chief Tim Beckett.
“We are encouraged that women are applying to the fire service but it’s not happening in the numbers that it would take to make a significant difference and we want to change that.”
Similar programs are run in Ottawa, London, and Vancouver. During the week, girls will learn basic firefighting, technical rescue, and pump/ladder operations, aerial ladder climb, auto extrication, and forcible entry.
Camp Ignite costs $150, running from August 8-12 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 7535 Ninth Line in the Lisgar area.
Steel toe boots and leather work gloves are required to take part in fire ground activities.