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Female firefighter fights stereotypes with special camp to encourage girls

<i>KSTU</i><br/>A female firefighter is helping more women enter fire service with a special camp.
A female firefighter is helping more women enter fire service with a special camp.

By Kerri Cronk

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    DRAPER, Utah (KSTU) — A female firefighter in one Utah city is determined to help more women to enter fire service with a special camp designed to encourage high school girls.

Being a firefighter can be an intimidating job as is, but being a woman can add an extra layer of challenges as the profession is predominantly men.

Erin Lytle has been fighting flames and stereotypes since becoming Draper City Fire Department’s first female firefighter in 2017.

“I mean, that’s gotta say something,” Lyle reflected, “that they thought that I was beneficial enough to hire, and believed that I could contribute to the team.”

She said she knew others were capable of the same things she was doing in the fire department and was determined to be a champion to other women.

“This was a need that I saw on the service that I could do something about,” Lytle explained. “I had great support from admin. They’re just like, ‘yeah, you do you,’ so I just kind of took it and ran.”

Lytle developed a two-day camp, now in its second year.

“We call it the ‘triple F,’ which is all future female firefighters,” said Chief Clint Smith with the Draper City Fire Department.

The program is designed to give girls in their senior year of high school another career option.

“We certainly are very supportive, and seeing the value that females bring to our organization, and want to create an avenue to continue to recruit strong females,” Smith emphasized.

The camp itinerary consists of hands-on activities like live fire training, forcible entry, rescuing victims and other scenarios that Kiki Howard, a graduate from Utah Valley University’s Fire Academy, knows all too well.

“My friend was just like, ‘hey, come to this with me,'” Howard said. “I was like, ‘okay, sure, whatever,’ and then after I was like, ‘this is so amazing.’

Going through the camp allowed Howard to realize her true potential as a firefighter.

“I’m just a tiny little girl,” she said. “But going through Erin’s program, you’re just like, ‘oh, nevermind, I can be a firefighter.'”

That’s exactly what Howard did as she recently graduated from the fire academy.

“I’m so proud of her,” Lytle explained. “That she actually is graduating and I know she’s going to succeed.”

Training and recruitment processes are the same for women and men, which Smith says can be challenging.

“There’s no doubt there’s still a huge physical aspect to the fire service,” he reflected.

“Men can just kind of brute strength through things. But we have to have a little bit more of a technique and a finesse with that, I guess,” Howard explained. “We can do the same things, but maybe not the same way.”

The unique camp reinforces that message as Lytle hopes it builds confidence and teaches the girls they are capable.

“Whether you’re male or female, anyone with the passion, with the ambition, with the drive, self-motivation, and grit,” Lytle said. “If you’ve got those things, you’re going to be an awesome firefighter.”

The camp kicks off Friday morning and this session is full but for anyone interested in participating next time, visit:

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