Female firefighters follow their dreams in Kooralbyn

The Kooralbyn Fire and Rescue station is manned by both male and female part-time auxiliary firefighters, who have other jobs but are on call all day, every day.

Kooralbyn fire chief, Captain Adrian Brinkworth, said an increasing number of women had applied for jobs as firefighters and acquired skills that proved they were up for the task.

“In my eyes everyone is equal, we all do exactly the same job and get exactly the same training,” he said.

“Our female firefighters have had the training and they know what to expect from the job and how to deliver their skills to the community.”

Gabrielle Juett, 19, said she had been a qualified firefighter for two months when her pager alerted her to a structural fire.

“It was four in the morning but you jump out of bed and get going, you have so many things running through your head but in the end training kicks in and you just know what has to be done,” she said.

“This is one of the reasons I always come in early before training to do inventory and equipment checks because it’s good to know that when you need equipment in an emergency it’s always there and exactly where it should be.”     

Helen Prendergast, 42, said she used to be in the police force in New Zealand and after moving to Kooralbyn she chose to join the auxiliary fire service to be part of the community.

“I like structure and I like the sense of family you get from being in service,” she said.

“At the moment I am working seven nights a week at a petrol station because that frees me up to be on call during the day.”

Ms Prendergast said the training was tough but there was no distinction between male and female firefighters at the station.

“Of course, we all have strengths and weaknesses – for example some of the boys are better at using the heavy equipment and some girls might have more empathy for casualty care,” she said.

Aimee Stevens, 35, said she had been a qualified firefighter since August and had also joined to serve the community.

“It’s an amazing feeling, I remember the first road accident I attended,” she said.

“I sat with the casualty and held his hand until the ambulance arrived, it was awesome to be able to settle him down and help them get through something like that.

Ms Stevens said she would be a full-time firefighter if she could, but her first priority was being a mum to her 13 and 10-year-old children.

“That’s another reason I became a firefighter, even though it’s seen a male dominated field I wanted to show my daughters that women can do anything,” she said.

‘And when that pager goes off, the adrenaline kicks in and you’re on cloud nine after a job, it’s an amazing feeling that lasts all day.”