Yes We Can - 2005

Women Building & Protecting California Conference Rocks Sacramento!

The California Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee (CFFJAC) and its sponsors – California Professional Firefighters and the Office of the State Fire Marshall – are pleased to announce the success of the 4th Annual Statewide Conference for Women in the Trades and Fire Service. The purpose of the “Women Building & Protecting California Conference” is to strengthen the efforts to recruit women in to these tough but rewarding jobs and to formulate successful retention and advancement strategies for tradeswomen.

“In our profession, there seems to be a higher expectation on us,” said Catherine Capriles, with the Palo Alto Fire Department. “But, in a sense, that is what makes you stronger as a person and as an employee. You always have to keep on your game and stay two steps ahead.”

CFFJAC Administrator Dan Terry was joined by California State Fire Marshal Ruben Grijalva, CPF President Lou Paulson and State Building and Construction Trades Council President Bob Balgenorth in welcoming hundreds of skilled and experience women representing various professions and trades – including firefighters, laborers, operating engineers, electricians, pile drivers, and construction workers.

The CFFJAC is extremely proud to acknowledge its greatest firefighter apprenticeship success story - Berkeley Fire Department Chief Debra Pryor - for her role as one of the conference’s key note speakers. Chief Pryor began her career as an apprentice firefighter for the City of Berkeley nearly 20 years ago. She was the first female and first African American female to be hired by the department. During the course of her distinguished career, Chief Pryor continued to raise the bar even higher and continued to climb the ranks. Now, as Chief of the Berkeley Fire Department, she holds the esteemed title as the very first African American female fire chief to be hired in the state of California.

“Everything I have accomplished is accredited to those who came before me, and had the courage and tenacity to move obstacles,” said Berkeley Chief Debra Pryor. “Inspiration comes from within and motivation comes from watching others. I want to encourage you to continuously challenge yourself and create opportunities for mentorship in your personal and professional lives.”

Contra Costa Firefighters Local 1230 Vice President Lisa Beaty, Davis Firefighters Local 3494 Treasurer Emily Lo, Davis Firefighters Local 3494 Member Judi Cutaia, and California Fire Department of Forestry & Fire Protection Battalion Chief Marlene Heisey also deserve accolades for their lending their expertise and participation as workshop moderators and panelists.

“Because of her ethics and principals, Chief Rose Conroy has always been, and continues to be a great mentor and role model for me,” said Davis City Professional Firefighters Local 3494 Treasurer Emily Lo. “My success is due to, in large part, by those advocates who have paved the way for women and minorities to have the opportunity to be a part of this profession.

An energetic spirit that celebrated the strength, experience and power of sisterhood within the trades profession permeated the entire conference room. Each speaker and each video presentation generated enthusiastic cheers, whistles and applause from the crowd.

“I like to encourage all people, whether it be a man or woman, to get involved in the fire service, and help them understand the demands and challenges of the job” said Palo Alto Firefighter Catherine Capriles. “Like all trades, you can’t get rich doing this – but you do get rich in a lot of other ways like building strong friendships and also by the satisfaction of doing a good job and helping others."