WASHINGTON BOROUGH, N.J. – The Washington Borough Fire Department in Warren County, New Jersey made history last week when its first all-female interior crew responded to a call.
The department recently added three certified firefighters to its volunteer roster; all are women.
Destinee Hartrum, her cousin Stephanie Hartrum and Deanna Harrington said they didn’t plan to join at the same time but wanted to serve their communities. They have spent the better part of a year in fire school training to do so.
“There is over 100 years of fire service in my family, so I kind of felt like it was the right thing to do,” said Destinee.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fewer than 10% of firefighters are female. Washington Borough Chief Dirk Higgins estimates that number to be even smaller in Warren County.
“We have the ability to have role models that we can showcase to young girls in our community and say ‘hey, you can be a fire fighter too,'” Higgins said.
Deanna Harrington said she spent about five years working in EMS before attending the fire academy. And that while some people in the community may be surprised to see a woman under the gear, the rest of the Washington Borough department is not.
“You hear of stories from other women from other parts of the country but here I’ve never felt treated differently. I just feel just another one of the guys, a fire fighter, you get treated with equal respect. They know you can do your job; you know they can do their job and that’s what really matters,” Harrington said.