In September, the stars aligned when five female firefighters at South Florida’s Palm Beach Gardens Fire and Rescue made history. These brave women are officially the first all-female firefighting crew in the 57-year history of the fire department’s existence. The women range in age from 29 to 53 and between them, they have nearly 80 years of experience with EMT and firefighting. However, they had never worked a shift together until September 18, when it just so happened that they were all scheduled to work at the same station. Because of the way things happened that day, their story has gone viral and these brave women are inspiring all of us to reach for our goals and never give up.
A lieutenant with nearly 20 years of experience, Krystyna Krakowski explained, “That day, every rank was filled with a female, which was awesome, I’m not going to lie. I was giddy like a little girl. I still am. It’s girl power — we build each other up and we rise by lifting others.” Girl power, indeed. Krakowski is a single mom who has a 12-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter. Is there anyone on the planet tougher than a seasoned single mom? I don’t think so. Krakowski said that it was her daughter who was one of her biggest motivations in making the decision to take on such a challenging job.
The lieutenant said that when you’re a mom, your kids are very supportive, especially when you’re a single mom. “Our daughters are our biggest fans.” I can totally attest to that. My daughter has always been my biggest cheerleader. The way it happened that fateful day in South Florida was that the stars aligned on the day that Supreme Court Justice and women’s right advocate Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, so it was very fitting that these women were all together to show what women can do.
Krakowski said that when they pulled up and five women piled out of two different fire-fighting vehicles, people’s reactions were funny. “They wanted to give us high-fives,” said Sandi Ladewski, who happens to be the only female driver engineer for the department. “They’d call us for their emergency but then they were like, ‘Oh, wait, high-five!’ We didn’t know what to do.” A lot of folks made jokes, with one person asking, “Did you go online shopping together?” The firefighters laughed it off good-naturedly. But were they scheduled together deliberately? Probably not. The department just has a lot of women working for them.
Here’s a statement from the Palm Beach Gardens Fire and Rescue: “Our progressive staffing and recruitment efforts are reflected in that moment,” the statement reads. “Nationally, female firefighters represent 4% of professional firefighters, whereas women make up 11% of our department’s firefighters. We are especially proud that 58% of our female firefighters hold the rank of Lieutenant or higher.” The firefighters work 24-hour shifts and then get 48 hours off before starting the whole thing over again.