Local girls get taste of firefighting from experts during academy

A group of young girls decked out in fire fighting gear watches as one of their own carefully climbs a 109-foot truck ladder for the first time.

Meanwhile, conversations can be overheard from women who are training the adolescents. They share stories about their experiences as a firefighter, and for a moment they veer off into accounts of their previous pregnancies.

They capture an image of women working a tough job in a male-dominated field, while also living life as a mother.

“You don’t have to give up being a girl to do this,” said Brianna Boyer, a firefighter from Sublimity who volunteered her time to help at the second annual Linn County Young Women’s Fire Academy, held June 22-23 at the Lebanon Fire District headquarters.

Her nails were decorated with glitzy polish.

Twenty girls attended the second annual  free, two-day academy, which was open to young women who might be interested in pursuing a career in firefighting or related field, or just wanted to try it for fun.

The goal of the academy is to show girls that being a firefighter is possible because it tends to get overlooked as an option, one of the founders, Lt. Erin Nunes of LFD, explained last year.

Among this year’s participants were Chloe Tyler, 14, daughter of an LFD battalion chief, and Londyn Randall, a 15-year-old student from East Linn Christian Academy who also attended the first academy last year.

Londyn is sure she doesn’t want an office job when she grows up. Because of the training through the fire academy, she’s pretty settled on a career in the firefighting field.

“I don’t want to sit in an office all day. With this, there’s something new every day,” she said.

Chloe’s dad, Nick Tyler, goes home from work and tells stories about his job, which, to Chloe, always sounds “pretty cool,” she said.

“I’ve kind of been looking into it as a future career, so I came to get a gist of what it would be like,” Chloe said.

She knows she wants to go into the medical field, but after experiencing the fire academy, she believes becoming a firefighter is “definitely” an option for her.

“It’s hard, but you don’t realize it while you’re doing it because your adrenaline is up so much,” Chloe said.

Female firefighters from across Oregon volunteered their weekend to train the girls how to gear up, use the hose, suppress a fire, enter a building forcibly, create ventilation, and perform the Denver Drill and search and rescue. This year, they added a simulated car fire, as well.

Two attendees from last year’s academy are now involved in the LFD, Nunes said. Jastyn Shilts is an intern, and Lacey Wilson is in the process of becoming a volunteer.

Firefighter Jason Adamson, from LFD, helped Nunes at the academy, and he brought along his six-year-old daughter, Emily, who rolled up hose lines and practiced the technique of stretching the hose back out with a toss.

“I think what Erin’s doing out here is pretty neat because fire service is predominantly men,” Jason said.

While Emily loves to hang out with her dad at work, she still questions things and seems surprised when she meets a female firefighter, Jason said.

“I know it’s something she’d enjoy,” her dad said. “I think it’s important for her to see this kind of thing. Hopefully, in 10 years when she’s old enough to do this, she’ll do it.”