Hundreds Try on Career in Fire Service For Size at CFFJAC Recruitment Fairs

Rian Mack thinks she's got what it takes ... and she wants a chance to prove it.

So did nearly 500 other would-be first responders who "answered the call" to participate in the CFFJAC's first-ever California Firefighter Recruitment Fairs.

Held on two successive Saturdays - May 12th at the CPAT Testing Center in Orange and May 19th at the CPAT Center in Dublin, CA - the fairs attracted women and men to tour the centers and see about taking that all-important first step.

The CFFJAC's Commission to Recruit Women for the Fire Service sponsored both events, which brought prospective firefighters face-to-face with recruiters from more than three-dozen fire departments from throughout the state.

Though open to all, the CFFJAC's fair's programs and services target women looking to join the fire service. Nationally, fewer than three-percent of front line firefighters are women. In California, women account for about five-percent of the employment rate - with CalFIRE, Los Angeles City, San Diego City and San Francisco boasting the highest total.

"Our goal is to open the door of opportunity," said Contra Costa Fire Captain Lisa Beaty, who also serves as co-chair of the Women's Commission. "Most young women may not know that the fire service could be a possible career option. We want to change that perception and reach out to the best and brightest female candidates that are out there."

In addition to face time with departments actually hiring, the nearly 500 people who attended over the two days also got hands-on time with the Candidate Physical Ability Test, the industry-standard test that shows whether a firefighter is "fit for duty." Supervised by a team of trained proctors, the candidates got to try out the eight events of the CPAT and ask questions.

"I work out every day on the stair master at my gym," said Aeleah McDonald. "But it is so much different when you've got a 50-pound weight vest on you. It's pretty tough, but I'm confident that if I continue to train, I can master it. If you want it bad enough... you can do it."

For budding young firefighters like Haley King, her motivation and ambition to serve in public safety has led her on the right path. "I'm a high school student and enrolled in the Napa City Fire Explorers program," she said. "Once I graduate, I plan on enrolling in a fire academy program and taking EMT courses. I'm interested in all aspects of the job - and I really like the teamwork ethic and emphasis on being a part of the firefighter family."

"We are extremely pleased with the turnout at both of our recruitment fairs," said Beaty. "Looking ahead, we'd like more fire departments and human resource personnel to sign on and participate to make next year's event an even bigger success."