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Portland fire camp aims to recruit more women firefighters

Less than 5% of firefighters are women, and the Portland Metro Fire Camp wants to show young women that firefighting is a viable career option for them.

SHERWOOD, Ore. — Less than 5% of career firefighters are women, but a group of female firefighters and paramedics at Portland Metro Fire Camp are pushing to make the profession more diverse.

The annual summer fire camp is organized and led entirely by professional female firefighters from multiple agencies across the West Coast.

"Our intention with this camp is just to expose young women to what it means to be firefighters," said Samantha Lundeby, a firefighter with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (TVF&R) and one of the leaders at the camp.

Participants come from all over the country for the free three-day camp where they tackle hands-on challenges at the TVF&R training center in Sherwood.

"Our mission is to focus on teamwork, empowerment," said Lundeby. "We're trying to empower these young women to believe that anything they put their minds to, they can do."

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Credit: KGW NEWS
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The camp itinerary consists of challenging stations and scenarios each day, such as taking hydrants, hose practice, controlling nozzles, standpipe evolutions and vehicle extrication.

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Participants have zero fire experience but show up to the camp to see if it could potentially lead to a career in the fire service. Samantha Quint is one of the 40 young women between the ages of 16 and 22 taking part in this year camp.

"There are apparently a lot of different positions I could have in the fire force — I could be more on the media presentation, I can be helping with storage and utilities," said Quint, "and I can be a firefighter while doing that, so it's interesting ... all different opportunities."

Opportunities that could carry them into a new profession, with female firefighters leading the way.

"Pushing them to believe that they can do it," said Lundeby, "and making sure that they are empowered to believe they can do anything they want."

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