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Fort Worth Fire Department ramps up campaign to recruit more women

Firefighter Alicia Willhide checked out several fire departments around North Texas before completing her initial application. "It's my dream job," she says.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Fort Worth Fire Department recruits are undergoing intense training. Man or woman, it comes with a lot of physical demands, and right now, recruiters are trying to recruit more women. 

Samantha Spaeth is one of the newest people working for the Fort Worth Fire Department. She is assigned to Station 13, where fellow firefighters have become her family. 

Either way, it's no surprise that Spaeth ended up a firefighter -- her older and younger brothers also work as Fort Worth firefighters. 

Although not as physically strong as them, Spaeth went through the very same training to do more than just fight fires.  

"You can't be scared to do this job," Spaeth said. "We also do a bunch of EMS car wrecks. Firefighting is just not about firefighting." 

Fort Worth Fire ramped up recruiting more women back in 2018, when they only had 12. That number has now tripled to 36 out of more than 900. 

The department hopes to have more women complete training, as their recruiters focus on making sure applicants don't get discouraged in the middle of the hiring process.  

Firefighter Alicia Willhide checked out several fire departments around North Texas before completing her initial application. She already knew it was her destiny to become a firefighter after working as a volunteer firefighter. She also loves helping people.  

"It's my dream job," said Willhide. 

Just like Willhide, Spaeth had to push through the physical endurance and use her own training techniques to reach the required goals while in the academy. Her trainers became her biggest cheerleaders to help her believe in herself. 

"Mentally, physically, they pushed you," Spaeth said. "And they wanted to make sure that you were capable of going out and doing the job." 

Willhide's motivation is her 4-year-old son, who loves having a mother as a firefighter. In return, she is her son's inspiration, even though he might be too young to realize the significance of his mother's job. 

"He's like, 'I'm a firefighter, too.' I'm like, you know what? And you want to be you got it. We can do it. And so, it's so adorable," Willhide said. "And I just you know, I just want him to be able to accomplish anything he wants to do. And so, I accomplish my goals and I have my dream job, and I want him to reach for the stars and get anything that he wants as well." 

The campaign to recruit more women stems from the department noticing the climb in the number of women not completing the academy. The required timed training for men is the same for women, who have learned they can do the job too.  

"Techniques of what works for you on the job, because everybody size is different. Big, small personalities are different. It's all about technique," Spaeth said. "It was worth the challenge, because you definitely feel like you earned the spot." 

Fort Worth Fire is competing with every other fire department in North Texas for new recruits. New firefighters earn a base pay of almost $61,000, and there are incentives for earning up to $64,000 a year. There are even pay benefits for recruits while they are in training at the academy. 

"If this is your dream, then try to take it," said Willhide. 

Men and women interested in joining the Fort Worth Fire Department can call during business hours or reach recruiters online at https://www.fortworthtexas.gov/departments/hr/careers/firerecruitment

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