Blazing the trail: More women becoming firefighters in Roanoke

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: only 5% of firefighters are women.

ROANOKE, Va. – Females fighting fire didn't exist in Roanoke city 23 years ago but is now becoming more commonplace.

Just over two decades ago, history was made as the first two women became firefighters and EMTs for Roanoke city.

"I was not expecting the microscope to be on me the way it was," said Roanoke Fire-EMS Deputy Chief Marci Stone.

Stone was one of the first women to graduate in 1997, forced to fight more than just fire.

"I can remember calls where I would go to the scene and people would talk directly to our male firefighters and never consider me being a firefighter," Stone said.

She's climbed many a ladder since then, now Deputy Chief.

"Definitely setting an example not only for myself but for other people who may follow behind me," Stone said.

Stone continues blazing the trail for women like Emily Turner, a firefighter-EMT who just graduated from recruit school two months ago.

"Every single day, we're helping somebody and a lot of the time, it's on the worst day of their life," Turner said. "Obviously I knew that I wasn't going to be one of many women."

Turner is one of only six uniformed women working for Roanoke Fire-EMS. The department has 18 civilian women. Turner, however, is part of a growing trend of more women joining the force.

"Nobody knows and nobody cares if you're a male or female. They just want you to come and help them," Turner said.

Stone said the department is getting more diverse, better reflecting the community and in turn, better serving the community.

"You need to represent yourself well and that will in turn impact other people," Stone said.

"I hope that eventually, it will become a normal thing. That I won't be special for being a woman in the fire department," Turner said.

According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, only 5% of firefighters are women.

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