NORTH LOGAN–Nicole Harper, a volunteer firefighter for the North Logan Fire Department, thinks every day is a challenge. When she graduated high school in Las Vegas, she wasn’t entirely sure where her life was headed. She decided to move to Logan and try taking some classes at Utah State University, but soon found this wasn’t for her. So she took a leap of faith and enrolled at Bridgerland Technology School to become a firefighter and EMT.As a woman firefighter, she has to prove herself to the guys everyday, she said. “You have to reassure them that you are qualified and able to do everything they can,” Harper said. “It always helps if you’re calm, confident and show that you love the job just as much as they do.”While it is difficult to keep up with the guys physically, especially because the fire equipment is really heavy, she said most firefighters treat women and men equally on the job.”You always have the occasional person that has issues with you, but once they get to know you and see how you work, they usually get over it.”Women are slowly infiltrating the ranks of the fire-fighting service, according to Firefighting women and sexual harassment, an article written by Ellen Rosell. However, a consequence of this is an increase in sexual harassment among firefighters, Rosell said.Women are struggling for equal rights in the fire station, said Tracy Clark-Flory, author of Firehouse Harassment. She said many firefighters are fostering sexist attitudes that “go beyond the expected locker-room talk and hazing rituals.” She said many female firefighters have suffered unwanted touching, leering and derogatory comments. A lot of these actions are resulting in unwanted lawsuits and high payouts.”Not surprisingly, some view complaints from female firefighters as proof positive that women just don’t know how to hang with the guys and take a good joke,” Clark-Flory said.While some female firefighters enjoy the “frat house pranks,” things are going past the “boys will be boys” type of jokes. Lawyer Genie Harrison said, “You get into bed with a woman and start to physically assault her, that’s not a prank–that’s an attempted rape.”Although the majority of cases are a man assaulting a woman, it is worth noting that harassers aren’t always male and they don’t always target females, Clark-Flory said. Harassment is a growing problem as more women are becoming firefighters. However, as more people become aware of this problem, a solution will be implemented.Harper became a firefighter because she wanted to help people. She said every day is something different and so a firefighter is never done learning. And even though she faces challenges as a female firefighter, she said she would recommend this career to anyone that is willing to make sacrifices and dedicate themselves to protecting life.
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