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Fort Worth Fire Department working to increase the number of female firefighters

Inside the Fort Worth Fire Department's effort to recruit more women
Inside the Fort Worth Fire Department's effort to recruit more women 02:23

FORT WORTH -- The Fort Worth Fire Department is making a push to increase the number of female firefighters in its ranks. 

There are currently 40 women firefighters in the city, which makes up 3.8% of the department (nationally, about 5% of career firefighters are women). That number will soon get a boost; There are 15 female recruits in the current class at the Fort Worth Fire Training Center.

One of their teachers, Kristy Cothran, knows what those women are going through. She is a 2-year veteran of the department.

"I was in education for seven years, and I really just loved being a part of the community," Cothran said. "It's really just a calling."

Fort Worth hired its first female firefighters in 1982, and four decades later, the women who work in the department want to show they're just as capable as their male counterparts.

"I have the capabilities of lifting a 200-pound, 6-foot-2 man, and so what we have to do is just train a little bit harder," Cothran said.

Makayla Barnett joined the Fort Worth Fire Department after serving in the military.

"I didn't want to do something where I felt like I was just doing a 9-to-5 making a living. I wanted to feel like I was really affecting my community," Barnett said. "Other young girls or women even get excited. They're like, 'Oh, a woman is doing this job.' It surprises them, and it kind of surprises me that it surprises them."

The department recruits at colleges, schools, and in the military as it hopes to increase interest in girls and women pursuing firefighting as a career. Women firefighters like Barnett encourage females to join groups like the non-profit Women in Fire, go to a fire camp, or volunteer for a day to see if the job is the right fit.

Fort Worth firefighter Gina Malone believes women bring something extra to the job.

"You can imagine that when you are in the presence of someone who may be having the worst day of their life, that it is comforting for them to have a female presence," Malone said.

Cothran hopes to serve as a role model for girls and other young women to suit up and help keep the community safe.

"I think it's important for them to see that it's not just a male job and that women are strong, powerful, and can do these things just as much as the men can," Cothran said.

The recruits in the Fort Worth Fire Training Center are set to graduate later this year.

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