The live-in staff at Capital City Fire/Rescue’s Station 2 in downtown Douglas are all women and some of them are the newest first responders in Juneau.
This is not the first time that the fire station has been fully staffed by women, but it’s reflective of a trend over the past decade.
Meg Thordarson has been with the fire department for 11 years. She noted changes in the industry over time.
“Definitely more women involved in the department from medics to fire personnel to being on special teams,” she said in an interview on Juneau Afternoon. “We’re accepted a lot better, not just in Juneau Fire Department but statewide. The numbers of women are growing.”
The three other women of Station 2 — Jannelle Pine, Cat Pearson, and Sadie Inman — are recent graduates of the city’s firefighter academy.
Their class graduated in May and it was unusual in two ways: they were mostly women and they graduated during a pandemic.
“I was told that the other academies usually had a couple girls sprinkled in and this academy was the first one that was, by the end of it, the majority of it was women,” said Inman.
Classes began in early January and continued until March, but when COVID-19 came to Alaska some decisions had to be made.
“We continued because it was considered emergency work and it’s important to have first responders be able to get trained and get certified so that way in a pandemic like this we can be useful and help out the community,” said Pine.
The cadets had to make a few adjustments and be patient with delays in order to take their final exams and complete the course. Although it was a few weeks later than originally planned, the graduates earned firefighter and hazmat state certifications and are now eligible to be hired as career staff.
“For the department one kind of scary thing is if somebody in the department gets sick that puts a whole shift down at a station, when we don’t have a whole lot of first responders to begin with,” said Pearson, who noted that it doesn’t take much in a small community like Juneau for the support system to break down.
“Just because we’re in a pandemic doesn’t mean that the other medical calls are stopping,” she said. “We really need to try and do our best to keep our resources available for that.”
It is important to Pearson and her fellow first responders that everyone take as many precautions as they possibly can.