by Pearl Castillo
The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) hosted its second Women’s Fire Preparatory Academy (WFPA) on Saturday, April 7, at the Cecil R. Gehr Memorial Fire Combat Training Center. Fifty of the 120 participants that day were selected to continue on for the next five weeks of training.
The candidates selected for the program will be attending training sessions for the next five Saturdays designed to prepare them for the LACoFD testing process. Through the WFPA, candidates will learn how to properly work out for physical fitness, hands-on skills with tools and equipment, and the duties and detailed responsibilities of the firefighter position.
The program is headed by Fire Captain Jasmine Segura, Fire Captain Brent Burton and other female firefighters from all ranks of the LACoFD.
Attendees were led in cardio and strength exercises to gauge their abilities, followed by a selection test that consisted of push-ups, planks and the stamina (beep) test.
Participants who didn’t make the cut were given worldly advice on what they can do to prepare for a career in the fire service. Captain Burton encouraged the candidates and told them that it wasn’t the end. “We want to make sure that you’re clear — that you have a support network, and to demystify the stuff about the Fire Department,” said Burton. “You don’t need to be a tall six (foot), three (inch) guy to do this job. We want to change that mentality because firefighters come in all shapes and all sizes, both genders. That’s how it works.”
Battalion Chief Veronie Steele-Small also gave advice to the remaining 70 candidates, telling them not to tunnel vision on the Fire Department. “Do something you really want and you can do it. We’re all a testimony on that,” she said. “You guys put in the time, and it’s what you do with the hurdles that matter,” Captain Segura added.
Fire Fighter Erin Regan also spoke to the women who didn’t make the cut: “This is about changing the world and the perception of females and their capabilities. I want you to go out there and be Oprah. Everyone in this room has the potential. You just need to make the time to train.”
Engineer Felicia Bryant of the Oakland Fire Department traveled down to Los Angeles to support the WFPA. “I wanted to come and see it for myself, and I think it’s a great opportunity to see it grow,” Bryant said.
When asked about what motivated Bryant to become a firefighter, she said: “My grandfather was one of the first to join public safety. I went on and researched it for myself and eventually went for it.” Her advice to future candidates: “Don’t give up on yourself, that’s the biggest thing. People usually give up on themselves before they give themselves a chance.”
Photo credit: Douglas Morrison