Fire Fighting in Canada

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Fire service leaders tackle diversity issues

June 2007- BRITISH COLUMBIA - Rebecca Denlinger knows well the challenges of being a minority in the fire service.

December 14, 2007
By Fire Fighting in Canada

June 2007- BRITISH COLUMBIA – Rebecca Denlinger knows well the challenges of being a minority in the fire service. The fire chief in Cobb County, Ga., Denlinger was the first female firefighter in the state in the late 1970s and in 1997 became the first female chief. In her keynote address to members of the B.C. Fire Service at a workshop on diversity in Vancouver on April 12, Denlinger gave delegates a glimpse into the hardships she faced as a young female firefighter working her way through the ranks of a male-dominated organization in the 70s and 80s.

“Diversity within the ranks of a fire department must be a goal of its leadership,” Denlinger said. “We need a lot of different-thinking people with diverse sets of skills who can deliver efficient and effective emergency services to communities.”

B.C. Fire Commissioner Dave Hodgins said the workshop was a positive first step towards changing attitudes. “From the feedback we received, many people are committed to making change in their working environments,” he said. “We will need to keep up the momentum now to move forward to plan next year’s event.”

About 70 people attended the day-long workshop, co-sponsored by Vancouver’10s Fire and Rescue Services and the Office of the Fire Commissioner. The seminar tackled race, gender and sexual orientation and the impact they have on the B.C. fire service.

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Vancouver Fire Chief Ray Holdgate told participants they would face some challenges during the day. “I challenge you today to participate, be open, honest, and forthright,” he said. “The fire service is not a secret. It’s time we talked.”