To showcase and celebrate their female contingent, the Gibsons and District Volunteer Fire Department is holding an International Women’s Day Open House event on March 6th, from 3-6pm at their station. Currently, there are seven women serving as volunteer firefighters: four as full service volunteers and three are new recruits. Open House organizer and firefighter Serena Murphy is excited about the event, as well as the possibility of future initiatives highlighting women in firefighting.
“We want to empower young women and girls, show that if this is something you want to do, you can go out and do it,” says Murphy. “It’s getting better now but it’s [firefighting] still a very male-dominated industry. You see on TV or in pictures that most firefighters are male, but it’s changing, and we want to show that in our community.”
Murphy is currently the longest-serving female firefighter at the Gibsons Hall, serving about 4.5 years with a break in between. The training to become a full service firefighter takes dedication and two years of modular training. “We’re all here volunteering our time because it’s something we love to do. People have different interests within the full service spectrum and it’s really great seeing people come together who specialize in different things.”
“It’s like family,” continues Murphy, who was born and raised on the Sunshine Coast. “At the end of the day, a lot of the things we do, we’re putting our lives in each others’ hands. Having that family bond is really special.”
Another female firefighter, Emilie Simkins, has found that in her three years at the Gibsons Department, she has gained new abilities and a confidence she didn’t have previously. “I have overcome a great deal of anxiety and recognize in myself many new abilities. I have gained so much, all the while being provided with the opportunity to give back to the community and for this I am truly honoured and grateful.”
For Murphy, the most rewarding aspect as a volunteer firefighter is having opportunities to introduce young girls and women to considering firefighting for themselves. She was inspired to plan the Open House after a talk she gave to a group of Girl Guides for 2019’s International Day of the Girl. “It was inspiring and motivating for me to see them look up at me and be amazed. One of the girls is the daughter of one of our volunteers and she went home talking so excitedly about what I’d said,” shares Murphy.
She also wants to focus on building solidarity amongst the female firefighters, as well as with female first responders from different agencies along the Sunshine Coast.
Gibsons Fire Chief, Rob Michael, understands the importance of Murphy’s initiatives. “I’m very proud of all my volunteers,” says Michael. “Particularly when they show an interest in being a positive role model.” With two young daughters at home, Michael is especially supportive of the empowering messages that Murphy is sharing with women and girls in the community.
Current and past firefighting staff will be on-hand at the Open House to meet and mingle with the public. This family-friendly event will offer treats, hotdogs, firetruck pictures, a kids’ obstacle course and much more. For details, visit the Gibsons Fire Department Facebook page: @gibsons