Monday, July 9, 2007

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — The Hagerstown Fire Department’s first female career firefighter is on duty, after completing nine weeks of training.

Although others are quick to note her accomplishment, firefighter Deanna Glaze says she just wants to be a member of the department.

“They have treated me very well,” she said. “I haven’t been singled out or given any special privileges, which is the way it should be. It’s about me being part of the team, not about me being a girl.”

Miss Glaze, 23, is stationed at Western Enterprise Fire Company, where some members of her training class also are expected to be working.

When she is not at the Hagerstown fire station, Miss Glaze will be in class training to be a paramedic. She also will continue to work part time at other stations and volunteer at Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Company, where she has been involved since she was 16.

Most of her work is as a medic, which Miss Glaze finds less physically demanding than firefighting. The training certainly was, she said.

Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary R. Hawbaker said Miss Glaze was the only woman to make it past rigorous agility testing. The other parts of the test include a written exam and an interview that narrowed the field of prospective firefighters from nearly 200 to a class of about 10.

Miss Glaze said one of the more difficult parts of the agility testing required her to carry a 150-pound victim, represented by a life-size dummy, down a ladder.

“The physical parts, for me, were more challenging,” she said. “I’m competing with big 6-foot, 250-pound guys. I had to build my agility and strength.”

Miss Glaze said she found that she needed some improvement in her upper-body strength to keep pace.

“Girls don’t have as much upper-body strength,” she said. “So, I had to find other ways to do things.”

Techniques included more use of her legs. Miss Glaze also made more trips to the gym to increase her strength.

She said some people told her before applying to be a firefighter in Hagerstown that she would fail because the physical requirements would be too demanding.

She said that being a woman in a primarily male field can be intimidating, but firefighting is another chance for her to serve.

“This really is a special interest of mine now, and a passion,” Miss Glaze said. “And I know I’ll be bettering myself in the fire department.”

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