AFD looks to recruit more female firefighters before application period closes

AFD firefighters Meghan McClain (left) and Catlin Clark (right) perform daily inventory checks...
AFD firefighters Meghan McClain (left) and Catlin Clark (right) perform daily inventory checks inside an ambulance at Fire Station 1 on Sept. 9, 2020.(Rachel McPherron // Alaska's News Source)
Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 5:45 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Fire Department is hiring and Chief Jodie Hettrick is hoping to see a diverse field of applicants that includes women.

“What we should have is 50% of our department should be women and 50% should be men,” said Hettrick.

But according to a report Hettrick provided to the Anchorage Assembly Public Safety Committee earlier in the month, women make up only 3.6% of AFD’s line operations staff.

“We have 11 women for, out of 329 line operations positions,” she said. “That’s not very many.”

Firefighters Meghan McClain and Catlin Clark are two of those 11 women. Both said they didn’t know firefighting was an option growing up.

“It’s hard to be something you don’t know you can even try,” said McClain, who has been a firefighter and an emergency medical technician with AFD for five years.

She said the work is hard but rewarding, and she is passionate about inspiring young girls to explore the career field. McClain has helped with several camps for school-aged girls in the Lower 48. She plans to put on a similar camp in Alaska, but the effort is currently on hold due to the pandemic.

Her advice: “Get going!”

“The sooner you get into it, the more you learn, the more prepared you’re going to be when you get to this point,” McClain said.

Clark left a job in the legal field to pursue firefighting. She worked as a volunteer firefighter in Girdwood to see if she enjoyed the work, then decided to try to become a full-time firefighter with AFD. Like every other firefighter, she had to advance through a written exam, interviews and a daunting physical test.

“I didn’t get on my first time because I didn’t pass that physical, the one and done physical," she explained. “I failed, and that’s what gave me the drive to succeed.”

She waited until the next academy and tried again, passing on the second try and joining the department in January of 2020.

“I needed that failure in order to get stronger and I’m actually really grateful for it,” said Clark.

Hettrick, who is AFD’s first female chief, said she feels a heavy responsibility to recruit diverse applicants, including women and people of color.

“In order to represent our community and serve our community correctly, we need to look more like the community,” she said.

The application period ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13.

Hettrick said a level one EMT certification is a requirement but it is not needed until the academy starts in January. Interested candidates without the certification can apply now and achieve their EMT certification through classes offered in the fall.

The online application can be found here.

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